Push for NDP to embrace Leap Manifesto intensifies

As convention approaches, several ridings push the party to take ownership of the anti fossil fuels agenda.

OTTAWA — The federal NDP should embrace values contained in a dramatic plan for change – including a call to shift the country off fossil fuels – but the party must take ownership of this agenda through an internal process, according to a joint proposal developed ahead of the party’s convention in oil-rich Alberta.

The idea is being floated in a letter by former MPs Libby Davies and Craig Scott, the head of a provincial riding association and filmmaker Avi Lewis as party supporters prepare to gather in Edmonton this weekend.

That’s where discussion and debate is expected to take place surrounding issues including the so-called Leap Manifesto – a policy blueprint designed to be non-partisan that has a wide range of supporters, including actors, labour unions and environmentalists.

Nearly two dozen NDP riding associations are urging the party to embrace the manifesto’s plan at the convention as rank-and-file members think about the future following October’s disappointing election results.

Lewis, one of the key drivers behind the manifesto, said he’s been working with Davies, Scott and others inside the NDP to help craft a procedural path for the ideas due to increased interest.

Those behind the pitch do not expect political parties and institutions to adopt it without engaging in their own review, he said.

“We have come up with this … composite resolution that includes language from one (riding) Toronto-Danforth that calls on the party to debate it at the riding level and for it to feed into the next policy conference,” Lewis said in an interview.

There also must be an online mechanism to allow the party’s base to have a strong voice in the policy-making process, he added.

The group has also crafted a letter for rank-and-file NDP members in Edmonton. A copy was provided to The Canadian Press.

It said the manifesto could play a key role in the renewal of the NDP that is rooted in a “bold, inspiring, left vision of Canada.”

“We agree that the time is clearly right to embrace the analysis and values in the manifesto, but we believe the party also needs a chance to debate and articulate the many policies that flow from it,” the letter said.

“We also think the manifesto can play a part in strengthening party democracy, transparency and grassroots involvement in policy-making.”

Lewis points out the New Democrats face a real conundrum around pipeline debate because the party’s convention is being held in Alberta.

“The (provincial) NDP government in Alberta feels that being against pipelines is a no-go zone,” Lewis said.

“In fact, the premier of Alberta speaks about climate change and pipelines in the same breath every time she talks about their climate change policy … she always points out that this will give the province the credibility to get its bitumen to tidewater.”

Science clearly indicates governments cannot continue to build the infrastructure of the fossil fuel economy if Canada wants to tackle climate change, Lewis added.

When the proposal was released during the election campaign, NDP Leader Mulcair did not back it but he said he appreciated the debate of ideas.

There will be a considerable amount of attention paid on Mulcair in Edmonton because he faces a critical leadership review to determine if he can stay at the helm of the party.

NDP President Rebecca Blaikie has indicated he will likely need 70% support from delegates to keep his job though Mulcair has refused to provide a number that would prompt him to resign.

Here’s what the manifesto calls for:

• Shift swiftly away from fossil fuels so that Canada gets 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within 20 years and is entirely weaned off fossil fuels by 2050.

• No new infrastructure projects aimed at increasing extraction of non-renewable resources, including pipelines.

• “ Energy democracy,” in which energy sources are collectively controlled by communities instead of “profit-gouging” private companies.

• An end to all trade deals “that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.”

• Expand low-carbon sectors of the economy, such as caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media.

• Vigorous debate on the idea of introducing a universal guaranteed minimum income.

• Declare that “austerity – which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and health care while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations – is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.”

• Pay for it all by ending fossil fuel subsidies, imposing financial transaction taxes, increasing resource royalties, hiking taxes on corporations and the wealthy, introducing a progressive carbon tax, and cutting military spending.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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