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The Internet And The NDP’s Halifax Convention

August 17, 2009 5 comments

Now that the NDP convention is over, I think it is a good time to have a look how the Internet and social media were used during the convention, and what improvements should be implemented for the next time.

Unlike many other New Democrat bloggers, I was unable to actually attend the Convention. Therefore, I had to rely solely on the internet to remain updated on the events of Convention. Suffice it to say: I wasn’t disappointed.

Internet coverage of the convention was second to none. The NDP brought live coverage of the event right off their website, and saved clips of the most important speeches to watch later. This act alone allowed me to be up-to-date on convention happenings, and heck, even blog about them.

Other perspectives and analysis from blogs, twitter, and photos were gathering at a single website, democratslive.ca, created with the volunteer efforts of Devin Johnston and others. Up to the moment live blogging of the event was provided by Ian Capstick at MediaStyle allowed for gather more analysis, perspectives, and sometimes needed clarification.

But while Internet and social media coverage at the convention was top-notch, there are always ways to improve things for next time. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Release the resolutions document to the public on the internet on the ndp.ca website. Let’s face it, in this day and age, they will always be leaked to the public at large. I figure if the party releases them first, they will be able to add such things as disclaimers that these aren’t passed policy, blunting those that like to go for the rather cheap attack of gathering the craziest, most unlikely to pass resolutions to try to make the NDP look less mainstream than it is.
  2. Find some way to have simultaneous translation from the live coverage at ndp.ca. Watching the live coverage, when the convention spoke French, there was no translation. Considering my French is a bit weak, it was hard to follow along sometimes.If simultaneous translation of the live coverage is impossible, then saying just the resolution numbers in English and French would be enough to help watchers (with a copy of the resolutions), follow along.
  3. Create a social media rapid response team. Conventions have a funny effect on the blogosphere, as just when the party becomes the focus of online smears from members of the Liberal, Conservative, and Marijuana Parties, the NDP’s online activists are at their weakest, as they are a) too busy at convention; or b) don’t have intimate details of convention by not being there. A social media response team would be able to help counteract this temporary weakness.
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Halifax Convention Fails To Even Discuss Vital Party Reforms

August 16, 2009 Comments off

I’ve got to say, I am very disappointed. Because of the length of time discussing housekeeping items to the NDP Constitution, convention failed to even discuss vital reforms to the party. Heck, only 3 resolutions were even touched upon.

But good news first: delegates have chosen to have an updated preamble drafted, to be voted upon for the next convention. Considering the current one (at bottom of post) was written during the Cold War using the terminology and context of the time, a re-write is sorely needed. I hope that the executive will let regular members have input into the drafting process; after all, I sense that there is a desire at the grassroots level to discuss the party’s mission.

However, a preamble doesn’t really change the structure, the “how” of the party, and is therefore mostly a semantic debate, which leads me to continue with the bad news: the lack of discussion on vital party reforms.

First of all, let’s touch upon the name change. The motion to change the name of the party right away was ranked at #20, and didn’t have a real chance of being discussed. However, the motion to have consultations on a name change, ranked at #7, did. It is sad that this wasn’t even discussed, and as a consequence, I don’t think activists by names demands by some activists to have a look at the party name will die down. Hopefully, the party executive will begin consultations on the party name in its own accord.

Another key reform that wasn’t even discussed is the transfer of setting rules for nominations from the provincial sections to the federal section. It doesn’t really make sense to have over 10 different rules to nominate a candidate for a single political party, nor have a body that isn’t focused on federal politics to be setting the rules.

Finally, reforms to party membership were not even discussed. A motion to convention proposed the examination of separating membership of the federal and provincial parties, with further instructions to have a flat membership fee across the country and to develop a process, in the event of separation, of close co-operation between the provincial sections and the federal section (with a joint membership form being suggested.)

I think that the NDP needs a frank discussion in regards to structural reforms for the purpose of sending our party towards victory, and I hope that at the next convention, structural reforms will be discussed.

Update 08/16/2009: Corrected nonsensical sentence.

Appendix 1: Current NDP Constitution Preamble:

The New Democratic Party believes that the social, economic and political progress of Canada can be assured only by the application of democratic socialist principles to government and the administration of public affairs.

The principles of democratic socialism can be defined briefly as:

That the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a sustainable environment and economy and not to the making of profit;

To modify and control the operations of the monopolistic productive and distributive organizations through economic and social planning.  Towards these ends and where necessary the extension of the principle of social ownership;

The New Democratic Party holds firm to the belief that the dignity and freedom of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended; and

The New Democratic Party is proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world and to share the struggle for peace, international co-operation and the abolition of poverty.

Categories: NDP, NDP Convention 2009

Growth In The Orange Machine

August 14, 2009 Comments off

While the discussion at the NDP Convention has been interesting so far, with speeches from Layton, Ference, Doer, and the successful campaign teams of Manitoba and Nova Scotia, what I have found to be the most interesting be far are the executive reports, as they tell the story of creation and expansion of a Big Orange Machine.

First of all, to fuel an electoral machine, it needs money, and with tight fiscal management, the NDP is in a very good fiscal situation, with a small debt backed by a NDP federal office building the party owns outright. Barring an election, this small debt will be paid off by the next year. But more interestingly, our fiscal management has made it possible to compete with the other political parties in a way that was not possible before. For instance, the TV advertising budget of the 2008 election exceeded the entire campaign budget of the 2000 election.

But even more interesting than that is the changes happening to our federal campaign structure.  For instance, in previous years, the federal NDP rented out services from the provincial parties for federal purposes. With the provincial parties having different ways of operating, I would imagine that coordination would be hard. Now, the federal NDP is establishing its own structure, still renting out space from the provincial parties but no longer renting out services. As well, the NDP is adopting a federal candidate screening process instead of renting out that service from the provincial parties as well. I am hopeful that this will reduce the number of candidates that bring in controversy and derail NDP camapigns.

I hope that the Convention chooses to continue the path to make the Big Orange Machine grow, and votes to provide the tools needed for success.

Categories: NDP, NDP Convention 2009

Removing Dana Larsen From NDP Convention Democratic Thing To Do

August 13, 2009 40 comments

It seems that Dana Larsen, an drug legalization activist and NDP member, has been barred from NDP Convention.

Now, let me preface this by staying that I generally support the legalization of Marijuana. But with that being said I don’t think that barring Larsen has anything with his pro-legalization resolutions. Rather, its about his buying votes to support said policies. Don’t believe me? Have a look at his own words from Rabble on this issue:

Well I will be there of course. I think it will be my 11th NDP convention, but I’m starting to lose count.

If there’s any Babblers who want to go but perhaps cannot afford it, please contact me. I am organizing transport and lodging for groups of delegates. All that I ask in return is your vote on an anti-prohibition resolution and perhaps one or two other issues, otherwise you can vote and do as you please.

If you are interested, please contact me.

Really, I can’t see how vote-buying could be spelled clearer than explicitly saying if one votes in the manner I want, I’ll help one with transport and lodging?

You see, delegates go to convention to make decisions about the future direction of the party. These decisions should be made based on the judgment of the delegate based on what she/he thinks is best for their riding association and the whole party. Now, if there are people offering financial inducements to get delegates to vote in the manner they want, what has just happened is the transfer of power from the average delegate to the rich; the one person controlling many votes. This is clearly undemocratic.

This is the thing: if the party turned a blind eye to Larsen’s actions, then when would it stop? The rich CEO trying to getting policy passed at an NDP convention that is antithetical to the party’s values?

If anything, the NDP needs to ensure that clear rules barring the buying of votes are developed and/or made well known.

PS: I will say this in regards to the NDP organizers: this offer of vote-buying as been available on the internet since January 20th, 2009. Couldn’t you chosen to remove Larsen a few months before convention, ya know, before he paid for his travel to Halifax and all of the media attention that comes with conventions.

PSS: And I will say this in regards to some of those that have been actively working on the Internet to try to get Larsen back into Convention: Don’t you think that posting Brad Lavigne’s phone numbers everywhere is a bit much?‡

‡ Yes, I am remotely aware of the irony of that statement.
Categories: NDP, NDP Convention 2009

The Only Time The Term “NDP Party” Is Acceptable

July 20, 2009 6 comments

The NDP Convention is happening in a few weeks or so. With many of the NDP’s online activists being there, it would be a shame if there wasn’t some sort of in-person meeting.

Which is why Ian Capstick and Devin Johnston have been working so very hard to set up a gathering, a “Convention Tweet-Up”, which will take place Saturday August 15th 2009 at the Halifax Carleton after the last convention speech of the night.

However, in order for this gathering to be a success, Ian and Devin are going to need some help.

First of all, they need a few small donations, around the $5-$25 mark, in order to fund the event. If you can, send a few dollars their way (watch the conversion between US and Canadian dollars). To further sweeten the pot, if you donate, your blog will be listed on the sponsor board at both the event and the website being built to promote the event.

Second of all, they need support promoting this event, which can be done by blogging, tweeting (hash tag #hfx09), and donating ad space.

With proper support, I am certain that this Convention Tweet-Up will be remembered for years to come. If you have any questions about the event, contact Ian.

When New Is Old: Responses To 2 Common Reactions in Regards to Renaming the NDP the Democratic Party Of Canada

July 14, 2009 12 comments

Exactly one year ago, I wrote a post supporting the removal of “New” from the New Democratic Party name. Since then, a motion advocating this change has been submitted for debate at this year’s NDP Convention, and the topic has become more relevant.

So, for this blog post, I won’t rehash the arguments on why we should become the Democratic Party, but instead respond to the two most common reactions to the proposal.

Changing our name to the Democratic Party will, in the eyes of the average Canadian, infer a connection with the Democratic Party of the United States.

This is one of the most common reactions I hear. Personally, I find it kind of weak as an argument not to change the name of the New Democratic Party. The fact is, the name “Democratic Party”, is rather common around the world. Do any of this parties have some kind of inferred connection with the Democratic Party of the United States within their countries? I suspect not.

But let’s, for a minute, take this argument to its logicial concussion and let’s look at other political parties and entities that call themselves New Democrats. The New Democratic Party of Albania and the New Democracy Party of Greece are both right-wing entities. And the New Democrats in the United States are a relatively right-wing portion of the Democratic Party of the United States. Therefore, shouldn’t the New Democratic Party of Canada have some sort of inferred connection with these groups? Shouldn’t the New Democratic Party of Canada rename itself to get away from any possible inferred connection?

The thing is, people are smart enough to figure out between what is happening in their own country and what is happening in other countries. Furthermore, as it would be Jack Layton and the current caucus team that would be the ones introducing the new name, any remote, tiny, possible thought of any inferred connection would certainly go away in a hurry.

The “New” should be replaced with “Social”.

The next common reaction that I hear is to not rename the NDP to the Democratic Party, but the Social Democratic Party. I understand where these people are coming from, as I am a Social Democrat myself, but there are three reasons why I think that “Social Democratic Party” is less preferable than “Democratic Party”.

The first reason is the that term “Social Democrat” is not well known in Canada.

The second reason is renaming ourselves Social Democratic Party would be ideologically limiting. This is bad for two reasons, the first being not all people within the New Democratic Party are, or identify as, Social Democrats. Secondly, in order to win more seats, we will have to attract voters that are more right-wing than the average social democrat.

The final reason is that the Social Democratic Party would, like the current New Democratic Party name, be converted into an faceless, meaningless acronym. Instead of NDP, we’d be stuck with SDP. Considering that the other two major party are referred to by name instead of an acronym, simply switching from one acronym to another doesn’t really strength our brand.

(Added 4:46pm) Like most NDP-Liberal Swing voters. What I’m trying to say here is these type of swing voters might not identify themselves as Social Democrats either.

Categories: NDP, NDP Convention 2009