The NDP convention starts this afternoon, but right before, delegates will engage in a mad dash to organize so that their favoured motions will hit the floor for debate.
This will be no small feat, as there are hundreds of motions that have been loosely organized in themes.
Sixteen motions were served on various aspects of Indigenous rights, 26 on workers’ rights, 22 on issues relating to foreign affairs and 19 advocating for more public ownership in different ways. There were 12 motions served on public infrastructure, mostly that relate to the Liberals’ Infrastructure Bank promises, and nine motions on various immigration reforms. Sixteen motions were served on issues relating to justice, most that relate to pot legalization. Fourteen motions were served that address issues specific to particular communities and 11 relate to war and peace.
There were only two motions served that relate to culture in any way, four that relate to food security and three that reference science and technology (including one that calls for a national registry of all Artificial Intelligence technology that exists in Canada).
The biggest categories were motions related to taxation and benefits (32 motions), the environment (59 motions) and social program spending (60 motions). Social program spending contained dozens of duplicative motions, including eleven motions related to a basic or guaranteed income, eight calling for action on housing and homelessness, six that call for dental care to be made public, five that relate to a mental healthcare strategy and five that relate to the cost of higher education. The motions are spread throughout similar sections, so a casual reading of the 151-paged document gives the impression that there is far more to debate than there actually is.
Environmental motions were much more diverse, and included calls to end specific projects or to protect specific waterways, to develop energy strategies and support energy transition. The environmental motions are so varied, it demonstrates that among the NDP grassroots, there is a desire to do something, but that without a coordinated policy effort to figure out what to do, that the cacophony of motions served will be too much for this policy convention to adequately deal with.
There are 31 motions that relate to governance and democracy, finding solutions to government problems through inquiries or changing the terms of reference for various agencies, like the Bank of Canada. There are at least five motions related to electoral reform, already among the NDP’s bread and butter policies.
Among the workers’ issues motions, the most common are related to pensions and benefits. There is one motion to increase the minimum wage (we should assume federal minimum wage, though it’s not specified) to $20/hr and link it to inflation, served by the riding associations of Beaches-East York and Mount Royal. Such a motion is unlikely to make it to the floor for debate, though if it does, it would provide a glimpse into where NDP delegates are in thinking about the minimum wage.
The fact that there’s only one motion related to a minimum wage versus the eleven served about a basic or guaranteed income is something to watch: a higher minimum wage is a regulatory tool to force private industries to better distribute their wealth while a guaranteed income is a public policy that tries to mitigate the impacts of wealth hoarding and exploitative wage practices. Both are rooted in important philosophical and practical differences and realities, and offer a barometer to see the political orientation and sophistication of NDP members on these questions.
If the minimum wage vs. basic income motions act as a proxy to understand the political orientation of NDP delegates, the 50 motions served on various aspects of the governance of the NDP itself serve offer a glimpse into the NDP’s democratic problems that members hope to improve. Motions aim to make the NDP’s policy documents public, to try and stop the party from removing a candidate for crass political reasons and to try and bring the leadership’s political aspirations closer to the democratic will of the membership. Some of the motions seek to make the motions process more accessible and smooth by using an online platform.
But perhaps the most important barometer will be how the NDP – both delegates and the party’s leadership – deal with the motions served demanding justice for Palestine. There are twelve motions that deal with Palestinian justice in some way, the most significant that calls for support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel. While the vast majority of all motions are only served by one riding association, the support for BDS motion has been endorsed by 29 other ridings. Will this motion make it to the floor? Or, will one of the motions that doesn’t go as far in calling for action for justice make it instead?
This morning, delegates will participate in plenaries that order these motions in terms of importance. The convention opens Friday afternoon and there are five blocks throughout the agenda to debate policy motions.