NDP convention floor at the Bayshore – young faces Spencer Herbert and Michelle Mungall on stage
This weekend I got to spend a couple of hours with the brothers and sisters of the BC NDP who descended upon the Bayshore Hotel for their biennial convention. What I saw was not an entirely happy family, thanks to some emotional comments from party members on the subject of sustainability.
From all the best reporting of the convention – including that of Sean Holman of Public Eye Online, and that of Andrew Macleod of TheTyee.ca – we saw that the real issue dividing the ranks of BC's NDP is whether to follow the principles of their Sustainable BC platform or not. It's not about the party lurching to the far left or to the centre to court small business. It's the decision to take a real stand on the environment, or not. Lucky for them, BC's NDP are not the only political organization struggling internally with this issue.
The views of 24 Hours columnist Bill Tieleman are shared by many within the NDP, and Bill has framed the issue facing his party around whether or not to reject a more moderate, centre-leaning direction. Bill of course is one of the leading anti-carbon tax campaigners in the province, and clearly was able to influence the party to adopt his "axe the tax" idea as part of the party's 2009 campaign platform.
Judging by the number of Vision Vancouver representatives in the crowd on Saturday – including their leader Gregor Robertson who addressed the room on Friday night – there is a clear connection between the two parties. Where perhaps they differ is on the question of sustainability. Vision are overall younger than the NDP rank and file, and preach green living as one of its core tenets.
The BC NDP like both provincial parties is predominantly white, male and over 40. Powerful
BCGEU BC Federation of Labour boss Jim Sinclair still rules the roost, and Big Labour are still dominant within the party. There are factions, however, who want the BC NDP to be the party of action on sustainability. The voices, many female and several of them under-40, are clearly frustrated by the party's weak stance on climate change.