New Democrats launch policy convention with a pitch to voters: we have your backs

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It may be billed as a wonkish policy convention, but New Democrats hope the next three days show their party is ready for a possible spring or summer election.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will face his second leadership review on Sunday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

It may be billed as a wonkish policy convention, but New Democrats hope the next three days show their party is ready for a possible spring or summer election.

Over the next three days, former and current leaders from across the country will address attendees virtually and over 2000 delegates will vote on resolutions meant to chart the future course of the NDP.

Party leader Jagmeet Singh takes centre stage on Sunday to make his pitch for the NDP’s vision of a post-pandemic Canada. This is Singh’s second policy convention and his first convention appearance as a campaign-tested leader who has managed to punch above his weight in a crowded minority Parliament.

“We want to show Canadians that we fought for Canadians when times were difficult and people needed help,” Singh told Power and Politics host Vassy Kapelos on Thursday.

“Whether it’s paid sick leave or directly helping students, the Liberals did not have this on their agenda. We fought for it and we won to give people the help they needed.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh joined Power & Politics Thursday to discuss what his party must do to appeal to a greater number of Canadians ahead of the next election. 10:50

Singh is taking credit for the federal government’s decision to enhance the Canada emergency wage subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada emergency response benefit.

It’s a strategy former NDP campaign manager Brad Lavigne said the party should own. It signals to voters, he said, what the country’s first federal NDP government would look like.

“You have to translate your record,” Lavigne said. “(Promote) all of the great things you were able to achieve and then pivot to say, ‘Now look at what we could do if we were given the opportunity to govern.'”

For the coming election campaign, the NDP is preparing to spend double what it did in 2019, which was just short of $12 million. This year, the party says it can spend what it did on the last campaign on advertising alone because it has paid off its multi-million dollar debt.

With the party still in third place in CBC’s Poll Tracker, Singh will face his second leadership review on Sunday. During his first convention 2018, Singh breezed through with 91 per cent of the vote.


CBC News will have coverage of the Liberal and NDP policy conventions on CBC News Network, CBC Radio’s The World at Six, The World This Weekend and World Report, The National and CBC.ca.

  • Watch special coverage on Power & Politics Friday beginning at 5 p.m. ET for convention analysis.
  • CBC News Network will have regular updates and live coverage of key events.
  • CBC.ca will have full news coverage and analysis and will livestream the conventions.
  • On Saturday, CBC Radio’s The House will focus on the Liberal and NDP policy conventions starting at 9 a.m. ET.
  • On Sunday, Rosemary Barton Live will deliver convention news and analysis, including an interview with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh beginning at 10 a.m. ET. 

Socialist wing fights for power

But activists within the NDP see the convention as a chance to move the party away from the comfortable centre and back to its working-class roots.

Political action groups like Courage — which describes itself as “a coalition of the independent left” — have used the convention resolution process to advance proposals that mainstream parties — and even NDP MPs — have either neglected to adopt positions on or have rejected entirely.

“We already have a Liberal party in this country. We don’t need another one,” said Emily Quaile, a member of the Courage coalition. “So what we are trying to do is really identify where we can make ourselves a little bit different and progressive.”

Courage is pushing to defund the RCMP and abolish billionaires through a wealth tax. It wants to use the funds raised by that tax to fund wireless and internet access, free transit and pharmacare.

With hundreds of resolutions on the table, it’s not clear whether there’s enough time for each of them to make it to the virtual convention floor.

But socialists within the party are fighting the battle on multiple fronts and are running a slate of candidates for the party’s federal council.

“It’s not just a matter of slogans and resolutions but a whole layer of people that are prepared to carry out these policies and prepared to offer themselves as candidates,” said Barry Weisleder, the chairperson of the NDP’s unofficial socialist caucus.

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