To read Christo’s full coverage of the 2021 NDP convention, click here.
The federal NDP convention, held virtually from April 9 to 11, 2021, is only a couple of weeks away, and many party activists are working hard to ensure their favourite resolutions get support while receiving enough votes to pass among the delegates.
While there are literally hundreds of resolutions worthy of support submitted by riding associations across the country, I wanted to highlight just a few that I think are essential to the left in building a party and society that centres social, economic, and environmental justice.
Inevitably, good resolutions will be left off the list, but I’ve done my best to pick my personal favourites that I would vote for in my capacity as a delegate. They are provided in no particular order below, with the corresponding number in the resolution booklets
1. CREATION OF A PUBLICLY-OWNED TELECOM (01-04-20)
This resolution calls for the creation of a federally-owned crown corporation along the lines of SaskTel to guarantee low-cost and more accessible high speed internet for all Canadians. As I noted recently in Passage, public ownership is a tool the NDP must more readily promote, and this sector must be a priority. High speed internet in the 21st century is a basic utility, and lacking access exacerbates existing inequalities based on class, race, and geography. It likely also hurts small businesses currently gouged by the telecom oligarchs.
It’s also important to pass this resolution to push the NDP for more action on the digital front, because the 2019 policy of data caps and other fixes was far too minimal, as was the party’s official critique of the looming Rogers-Shaw merger. After all, capitalism cannot be depended upon to provide a basic human need like the internet any longer.
2. JUSTICE AND PEACE IN ISRAEL-PALESTINE (04-10-20)
This is a crucial resolution dealing with one of the world’s most pressing human rights concerns. Currently, I and many others view Israel as an apartheid state, which is only worsening things through the expansion of illegal settlements. This resolution would work with both Palestinian and Israeli activists to build independent states in the region. To help achieve this, it would demand Canada end “all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine,” and suspend “the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld.”
To me, this is a no-brainer. While many might desire a BDS-style policy (which is broader in its sanctions on Israel), I think most New Democrats and Canadians can agree that selling arms to human rights abusers—and not economically rewarding illegal settlements—is a good baseline to start with.
3. ABOLISH BILLIONAIRES (01-01-20)
This is one of the bolder resolutions in the entire package, and it enjoys a rather robust level of support from riding associations across the country, including from some represented by NDP MPs. This resolution demands that “All gross wealth above $1 billion to be taxed at 100%.” As I have noted in Jacobin, a wealth tax in Canada is exceedingly popular, among all parties and regions. Even a supermajority of Conservative voters support it. To be fair, however, that was polling on a much more modest wealth tax as proposed by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in the 2019 election.
I can’t say how popular this more radical wealth tax would be, but I personally support it as a matter of principle, because a democratic socialist society, while perhaps being able to tolerate some level of inequality, should not tolerate the existence of obscenely wealthy virtual oligarchs. And much as we have minimum wages in our society, we should consider maximum wages, after which one person has earned more than enough to provide themselves and their family a fantastical lifestyle.
While doing this with wages is not part of this resolution, even former NDP leader David Lewis during his retirement in 1979 mused that Canada needs just such a thing, and pegged his proposal at the 2021 equivalent of $130,000 annually. Is this too radical for 2021 Canada? Perhaps. But the NDP needs to be bold, and a heftier wealth tax than the current one percent offering is needed, especially on billionaires.
4. CANCEL STUDENT DEBT (03-07-20)
This provision is fairly simple, in that it demands the NDP update the policy book to fully cancel all student loan debt held by the federal government, and work with provinces like Québec to address provincial loans. This policy should be added to one from the previous convention which demanded the establishment of tuition-free post-secondary education in Canada, and which garnered unanimous support from the delegation. There is no excuse that a basic human right in Canada should be cordoned off by access to wealth (or lack thereof). Education in Canada must be free, from pre-K to PhD, and cancelling existing student loan debt is a good accompanying policy.
The NDP has dipped its toes into the waters of such a policy, proposing a means-tested and all too complicated pledge to cancel $20,000 dollars of student loan debt, providing a household after five years fails to earn $60,000 annually. This is not only insufficient, but seems tailormade to disappoint students who feel this will apply to them, until it doesn’t. Full student debt cancellation must be the goal, and if not that, a simple, universal amount cancelled that benefits everyone. And with the Green Party recently announcing a policy of full federal debt cancellation, the NDP must be prepared to respond in kind.
5. DEFUND THE RCMP (06-16-20)
This resolution is vital given that—be it historically or today—the RCMP exists as a force to uphold capitalism and the genocide of Indigenous peoples. From its earliest days, the RCMP and its predecessors facilitated the theft of Indigenous land and children, and played a vital role in crushing the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. The resolution therefore calls, not for mere reform or training, but for the gradual defunding of the RCMP with abolition as the eventual goal. As those funds are divested from the RCMP, they would be rerouted to community-led initiatives that protect the public, not endanger it.
Beyond this, the resolution calls for the federal NDP to support municipalities that wish to defund their own police with a view toward building alternatives. While recent polling shows Canadians are evenly divided on the question of police defunding, the reality is that policing—either in whole, and certainly as structured—does not serve the public, Black and Indigenous Canadians in particular.
If we want to build a just, humane, and egalitarian Canada, we must have frank discussions of how policing is a barrier to those objectives.
There are so many more resolutions that merit support and discussion, but I felt these five not only capture my personal interest, but focus in on key debates facing our country and the world. Finally, many of these policies must be addressed if the NDP is to have a clear left wing vision going into the next federal election, whenever that may be.
COVID has exposed and intensified the injustices in Canadian society, and the NDP must be the party offering an alternative to those for whom returning to pre-pandemic ‘normal’ isn’t good enough. Let this convention be the start.
Christo Aivalis is political writer and commentator with a PhD in History. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, and Passage. He can be found daily on YouTube and at his new podcast Left Turn, Canada.