OTTAWA — Thousands of federal New Democrats will gather online Friday afternoon to kick off a three-day policy convention that has already exposed some internal party divisions.
The 70 resolutions to be debated, voted on and distilled into policies by some 1,600 delegates will serve as de facto platform planks ahead of a possible election this year.
The event will also vie for attention with a virtual Liberal policy convention happening simultaneously.
The short list of potential NDP policies was whittled down from more than 400 proposed resolutions, some of which drew controversy for their more extreme positions.
Proposals from various riding associations committed to “phasing out” the Canadian military, removing all statues of Sir John A. Macdonald and nationalizing large automakers, though NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has distanced himself from some suggestions — and rejected the notion of abolishing the Canadian Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, a split over the definition of anti-Semitism has NDP lawmakers on different sides of a sensitive issue that threatens to distract from the message of unity the party aims to project.
“I don’t think it’s going to overshadow, because we’ve got a lot of really important and exciting policy debates on issues that impact people right now in the pandemic,” Singh said in an interview.
More than 40 NDP riding associations have endorsed a particularly contentious resolution that opposes a working definition of anti-Semitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, arguing it is used to chill criticism of Israeli policy.
Former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent will help launch the convention with a speech Friday afternoon, followed by addresses from the leaders of the Manitoba and Yukon New Democrats.
B.C. Premier John Horgan — the only NDP leader who currently heads a government — will address attendees on Saturday, with 12-year leader of the Ontario NDP Andrea Horwath taking the virtual stage later on.
Singh aims to rally the base with the keynote speech Sunday, hoping to convey a sense of rah-rah enthusiasm despite there being no convention floor to stomp nor walls to shake.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2021.