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NDP resolutions present opportunity to build a socialist Canada

Canadian PoliticsSocialism

According to CD columnist Christo Aivalis, NDP delegates have put forward a priority list that can be the foundation for a democratic socialist Canada based on social, economic, and environmental justice for all. Image by Canadian Dimension.

To read Christo’s full coverage of the 2021 NDP convention, click here.

About a week ago, I wrote a piece for Canadian Dimension issuing my list of five resolutions that merited support at the 2021 NDP convention.

As a recap, my five choices were as follows, with where they ended up ranked in their respective section in the final priority list:

  1. CREATION OF A PUBLICLY-OWNED TELECOM (01-04-20) [6th in Section 1]
  2. JUSTICE AND PEACE IN ISRAEL-PALESTINE (04-10-20) [2nd in Section 4]
  3. ABOLISH BILLIONAIRES (01-01-20) [7th in Section 1]
  4. CANCEL STUDENT DEBT (03-07-20) [3rd in Section 3]
  5. DEFUND THE RCMP (06-16-20) [6th in Section 6]

Clearly, delegates in general share my desire for bold left wing policy, with each of these resolutions being ranked high enough that they have the potential to see debate on the (virtual) convention floor.

But beyond my own picks, the delegates have put forward a priority list that can be the foundation for a democratic socialist Canada based on social, economic, and environmental justice for all.

With that in mind, let’s briefly go through the top choices in each section.

1. INNOVATING AND PROSPERING IN A NEW ENERGY ECONOMY

If one theme stands out in this resolution bloc, it is that the NDP membership wants the party to fighter harder against economic inequality, worker exploitation, and the private control of essential industries. Multiple resolutions focus on implementing a wealth tax—and while not all go as far as my preferred resolution’s 100 percent wealth tax on billionaires—there is a drive to tax those who have benefitted most from capitalist injustice during this pandemic and before. I also enjoy seeing a commitment to workers’ rights in terms of fighting for a $15 dollar minimum wage and the right to join a union, but also highlighting the plight of gig economy workers who are systematically exploited and denied basic rights and protections.

Finally, the top 10 here includes a commitment to public ownership, demanding the nationalization of Canada’s telecommunications apparatus, bringing Connaught labs under public control to ensure non-profit domestic production of essential pharmaceuticals (of particular urgency in the age of COVID) and the demand for a postal banking network that challenges the profit motives and inaccessibility of the private banking system.

2. BUILDING A CLEAN AND SUSTAINABLE CANADA

This second section focuses on fighting the environmental crisis which is plaguing Canada and the entire globe. But more than simply acknowledging the crisis, these resolutions actually aim to combat climate change by challenging the systems underpinning it—namely, capitalism and racism. Resolutions here not only call for elements of a Green New Deal (if not demanding a GND outright), but also assert the need for Indigenous peoples to have their own energy independence, and to immediately stop investment into carbon-intensive energy projects. Some of these discussions may prove difficult given that many federal NDP members have been critical of energy projects under NDP governments in British Columbia and Alberta, but they must be had, and the party should commit to a green future, and a green present, too.

Building off the first section, this bloc has multiple resolutions demanding action on green public transit under a rubric of public ownership and universal access. If we are to have an equitable ‘greening’ of Canada, public transit will play an indispensable role. And if that transit is to serve the needs of actual Canadians, it must be owned and operated by the public.

3. INVESTING IN A CANADA WHERE NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND

This is a broad section focused on justice for so many Canadians who have been denied it both historically and contemporarily. During the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term care facilities have been the epicentre of the tragedy, and delegates want action to protect seniors and other vulnerable residents. Also included are calls for a permanent national sick days program to ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their livelihood and the health and safety of those around them. This is on top of a commitment to ensure the protection and dignity of sex workers by decriminalizing their work.

Beyond this is a highly-ranked, dedicated call to cancel all student debt owed to the federal government, and to work with the provinces to address the rest. This is an important step, and should put pressure on the party leadership, who have only committed to partial debt cancellation on a needlessly complicated and means-tested basis. Likewise, there is a high-ranked resolution calling for a guaranteed basic income. While the policy often divides those on the left, this one appears to be based on the prior work of Winnipeg NDP MP Leah Gazan, who submitted Motion 46 in the House of Commons, a draft basic income plan that preserved existing social support.

Finally, there is a commitment here to ensure that our public medicare system be bolstered by the implementation of pharmacare, dentalcare, and vision care under the single-payer model, but the higher ranked resolution in this regard only includes pharmacare, which could lead to conflict.

4. REDEFINING CANADA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD

This bloc is of crucial importance given that it centres Canada’s responsibilities to the world, both in terms of immigration but also international affairs. While much can be said here, I am generally happy with the priorities set forth by the membership. It is encouraging to see solidarity with striking farmers in India, as well as an increased recognition that Canada must do more to protect the most vulnerable people in this country, who are often migrant workers, or the children of undocumented peoples. Until they are treated with dignity, a working class victory is impossible.

For me, however, the highest-ranked resolution on Israel-Palestine is of vital significance. Simply put, Israel is an apartheid state, and Canada’s support for its human rights violations is a massive blemish on our entire nation. And this resolution is far less controversial than others which are highly-ranked, including one opposing the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. All this demands is that Canada cease selling weapons to Israel—who will inevitably use them to crush Palestinian self-detemination—and end trade with businesses located within the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. The NDP must do more to assert a progressive vision abroad, because as it stands, Canada is often an enemy of social, economic, and environmental justice in the Global South.

5. GOVERNING IN AN INCLUSIVE AND FAIR CANADA

Justice for women and Indigenous peoples defines the top priorities in this bloc, and with good reason. As many top resolutions in this section make clear, the pandemic has had disproportionate impacts on women workers, who have more often had to take steps back in their career, or whose industries have been affected more harshly by shutdowns. When combined with the persistent scourge of violence against women, it is clear that NDP members want a recovery that solves these problems instead of intensifying them.

But the situation is even more dire for Indigenous Canadians, and resolutions recognize this with calls not only to finally bring justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, but also to promote rural and nothern internet access, which while not exclusively an Indigenous issue, is one factor in systematic racism against these communities.

But perhaps most influential is a “Land Back” resolution which is highly ranked and would be a significant step towards actually bringing justice for Indigenous peoples with real material weight behind it. By “actively seeking and pursuing all opportunities to return Crown lands and restore Indigenous jurisdiction to Indigenous nations” a real step toward reconciliation may be possible.

6. STRENGHENING HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE CANADIAN IDENTITY

This section’s priorities are clearly centred on fighting systemic racism and discrimination in Canada against the country’s most vulnerable populations. On everything from ensuring clean drinking water for Indigenous communities to fighting abhorrent conversion therapy programs to affirmatively standing for the rights of persons with disabilities, this bloc is essential in acknowledging that unless everyone is free, we can’t build a just society.

To me, the crucial resolution here calls for the defunding of the RCMP. As I noted in my previous article, the RCMP is fundamental to Canada’s racist and capitalist identity, and it continues to endanger the lives of Black and Indigenous Canadians. While there is no silver bullet to slay racial injustice, weakening the police is one of the most important steps possible.

***

In sum, I am encouraged by the priorities set forth by the NDP convention delegates, but it must be remembered that none of these resolutions have yet passed. More importantly, it is up to Jagmeet Singh and the NDP leaders to commit to build a platform with these priorities centred should they pass.

For too many elections, the NDP’s membership has fought to assert a left wing vision for our country and world, only to see election platforms either ignore or dilute those principles. When the next election comes—and it will likely be within the year—the NDP must trust in its membership and trust in the progressive values of Canadians.

We can built a better world, but we can’t start that work if our leaders are afraid of what we believe in.

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.

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