After Leap Manifesto, what's a Northern New Democrat to do?

VP of riding association says anti-development manifesto 'naive,' but presents opportunities for New Democrats in Northern B.C.

The vice-president of the local NDP riding association says that if the party is going to take the hardline stance against resource development espoused in the Leap Manifesto, they should make the case, in person, in B.C.'s oil and gas country.
 
Aaron Ekman, vice-president of the NDP riding association in Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, says he voted against the Leap Manifesto when it came to the floor of last week's NDP convention in Edmonton.

"What people who support this manifesto need to understand (is that) they're not going to encounter people who agree with them all over the country," said Ekman, who comes from Prince George and is secretary-treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour.

"If they go to places like we live, they're going to hear a very different view of the world that I don't think they've really considered in this manifesto, which is why I call it naive."

The 1,300 word document, authored by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, calls for Canada to transition to a "100 per cent clean" economy by 2050 and an "iron law of energy development."

"If you wouldn't want it in your backyard, then it doesn't belong in anyone's backyard," the document states. "That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian owned-mining projects the world over."
 
Delegates to the convention passed a resolution to debate the manifesto at the local level after turfing Tom Mulcair, whose move to the political centre was blamed for last year's disastrous election result.

But for some, the decision to endorse Leap at a convention in Alberta was a stick in the eye, particularly for Alberta labour leader Gil McGowan, who called the manifesto "garbage" and Leap supporters "Toronto political dilettantes."

Some party members worry Leap will permanently damage the NDP brand among working people—a concern that has long plagued New Democrats in resource communities.

Last September, former Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Kathi Dickie said she wouldn't have run for an NDP that endorsed a "keep it in the ground" policy.  

"My question to the NDP was if you're against development of our natural resources, then I'm not your candidate," she told Alaska Highway News. "I was assured 'no, no, we agree with development of our natural resources, but in a sustainable, responsible way.'"

While the manifesto does not commit the NDP to such a policy, it will force the party to discuss its adoption across the country. It has also allowed provincial NDP leaders, including B.C.'s John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, to take a stand against the party's anti-development wing, Ekman argued.

In her speech criticizing the manifesto, Notley "was able to don the mantle of (former Progressive Conservative premier) Peter Lougheed as the real defender of Western interests, regardless of her party stripes."  

"That's not a space the NDP has been able to occupy historically out west," he said.  

As for party members who backed Leap: "They need to hold these forums in the Peace River, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Alberta. They sort of wrote this thing from Toronto. They really need to hear what people in those working communities say, because they're struggling."

The NDP finished third in the riding in 2015, dropping behind the Liberals for the first time since 2000. The party's vote share fell from from 25 per cent in 2011 to 15 per cent.

Conservative Bob Zimmer won reelection with 52 per cent of the vote. A conservative candidate has won the riding every year since 1968.

reporter@dcdn.ca

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