The Nova Scotia NDP Provincial Council met March 1 in Lower Sackville. Unless an NDP provincial convention is in session, Council is the governing body of the party.
In theory every Electoral District Association (EDA) can send two representatives, and you add to that number all the sitting MLAs and folks like the president of the party to get a maximum attendance well over 100; but in fact there are normally around 60 people at the meeting. Some EDAs have not nominated representatives, and for March 1, business in the legislature kept most of the MLAs awa;, although Maureen MacDonald, the interim leader, was able to be there for the second half of the meeting and to present the Leader’s Report. Nancy and Bill Smith attended for Annapolis, with Rebekah and Andrew Wetmore as observers.
There’s a lot of busy-business at all meetings of this sort, the necessary reports, discussions, and decisions that keep the party functioning, but on March 1 there were two big deals:
Reviewing the 2013 election
We spent several hours in small groups, reviewing and adding to a report on what went well and what did not in the 2013 provincial election. The report came out of feedback meetings held all over the province and, so it summarizes the input of hundreds of NDP members.
There was a lot to talk about, and not just post-game analysis or complaining about the tactics other parties deployed. We came into the election after our first four years EVER as the provincial government, so we had a track record of impressive achievements and also notable stumbles. Although the party had a plan that it hoped would lead to a second term, a number of factors both within and beyond our control combined to lead us to defeat.
It was really interesting to speak with people from other EDAs as we reviewed the several sections of the report, and to learn which of our experiences in Annapolis were shared by teams in other parts of the province. The report laid out criticisms and described blunders in pretty frank language, but that wasn’t to hold people up for blame so much as to identify clearly what has to change as we start to prepare for a win in the next election.
Some common themes emerged, including the need for better communication and better deployment of resources, and that the party has show it is listening, and not just figure out louder ways to speak. The report included dozens of specific recommendations, and council added many more during the course of the meeting.
The report is not final yet. When it is, is recommendations will provide very useful guidance for the party going forward.
And that led to an important take-away: we now have just seven MLAs trying to cover all portfolios and represent all Nova Scotians. Our staff is down to two paid positions. If we want the party back on its feet and back to pushing and leading toward a better Nova Scotia for all, it won’t do to sit back and say, “Why don’t you guys do this and that?” We are those guys (and gals). We are the grass roots, the resources of time, talent, and treasure on which the success of the party and the movement it represents rely.
Preparing to elect a new leader
The other really interesting, and very practical, discussion, concerned when we have the convention to elect a new leader of the Nova Scotia NDP. On the one side, there are arguments for electing a new leader as soon as possible to help focus the party; but there are good points concerning the resources we have, and what we have to do with them, that seem to indicate it might be a better idea concentrate first on getting the party as a whole into positive motion before attaching the new leader to the front of it.
Council directed the Provincial Secretary to come up with a plan for a convention that would be held within a particular period–not being coy, but there is no point saying “it will happen in such and such a month” if it turns out there is no venue available to host it in at that time. But the planning is underway–the hunt is on for the venue and time frame, the rules are being assembled that will govern the leadership campaign and the voting for leader. A thing all members can do now is start to take the practical steps of rebuilding and re-energizing that will make us a party that a good leader will be proud to lead.
The next big step for the party is the NDP Policy Convention April 11-13. Annapolis is sending eight delegates to convention, and is proposing several substantial resolutions intended to improve party processes. We’ll also be fund-raising with some really remarkable items for sale to other delegates. Stay tuned for a report on how it all turns out!