The Nova Scotia New Democratic Party held its policy convention April 11-13 in Dartmouth, and the Annapolis EDA was there in force!
The NDP holds a policy convention in alternating years. Delegates from most or all of the EDAs (Electoral District Associations) get together to set positions and plan strategy, although a lot of the time it ends up hearing positions and approving strategy proposed by the executive, a smaller group.
There were nine of us from Annapolis, and we set up a very attractive table of things for sale, clipboard-based surveys, music, and so on. There were maybe ten other tables, and ours was by far the busiest.
There were about 200 people in attendance from all over the province. I was very pleased by the large number of college-age and young-adult delegates. There were of course a lot of gray-haired veterans of the political wars, union representatives, and our elected and some former (and I hope some future!) MLAs.
The first “real” event of Saturday was to be consideration of a couple of constitutional amendments our EDA had put forward to try to improve the connection between executive (a group of about 30 who make the decisions when convention or council is not in session) and the local associations. Nancy Smith, who was a city councillor in Ottawa, had headed our work on this for months, building out relationships across the province and explaining our proposals patiently over and again. In the end we won the first one handily and lost the second (each requiring a ⅔ favourable vote) by just a couple of votes–not a bad result, given the high threshold for success.
In the middle of the day we had a couple of memorable speeches by Megan Leslie, a federal MP from Halifax, and the leader of the federal NDP, Tom Mulcair. They were both enthusiastic, articulate, and to the point. This politics stuff is not just a parlour game for policy geeks: the NDP works, at both the provincial and federal levels to help government become better for all Canadians, not just for the 1%. The current federal and provincial administrations have a bias toward the wealthy, and we need to confront that bias energetically.
EDAs had submitted about 60 resolutions (we support this, we oppose that, we undertake to do this other thing), so we spent a couple of hours divided into groups to study and possibly amend the resolutions. Later the amended resolutions came to the floor of convention for discussion and possible adoption. I was impressed at how efficiently the system worked, and how much we got through. The resolutions that didn’t make it to the floor become part of the agenda of provincial council for the coming year.
Sunday we had training workshops, cafe-style: you go to your first assigned workshop, take part for 45 minutes, then cycle on to your next assigned one. Workshops covered areas like fundraising and using social media (beginner and advanced). The idea is to get the EDAs in a position where they can represent the party effectively and consistently in their part of the province.
Throughout convention there were impassioned presentations by young healthcare workers–the Liberal government had just declared pretty much all of their jobs to be “essential” so that they are forbidden to strike and therefore the health systems that employ them have no particular reason to raise their wages (or avoid cutting them), improve their working conditions, or bring up staffing to some sort of reasonable level. The new Nova Scotia government is about six months in office, and almost every day shows again how while it ran with left-sounding statements, it is governing from a very right-wing, authoritarian position.
This was the first Nova Scotia NDP convention I have attended in about forty years (was busy, okay?), and I came away energized to get moving on rebuilding this party so we can help the province grow and be delightful..