Report from DANA LARSEN
The unofficial anti-prohibition wing of Canada's NDP.
MY EXPERIENCES AT THE NDP CONVENTION
I came to the federal NDP Convention in Quebec, to promote our
organization, eNDProhibition, NDP against the drug war.
We had a group of 8 delegates who came to the convention specifically
to support eNDProhibition, work our two tables and promote our
marijuana and drug policy resolutions.
Preparing for the convention had been frustrating. I had intended on
buying a full-page ad in the convention guide, but no-one ever
responded to the ad purchase form I Xpressposted to their office, nor
the many phone messages and emails I left over a six-week period.
However, they did get back to me about the two tables for us to
promote our group, and when we got to the convention we did indeed
have the promised space reserved for us. The display tables were in a
smaller room away from the main convention hall, and when it turned
out that we needed more electrical outlets the fellow came promptly
and installed them very quickly and professionally.
RESOLUTIONS AND DEBATES
A key to any convention is the priority given to the resolutions.
Every convention receives hundreds of resolutions, and there will
only be time to actually debate and confirm the party's official
support for a very small fraction of the total. So if you have a
resolution you want passed, you want it to be within the top 5 in its
This was the first federal convention to use a new method for dealing
with resolutions, the "Saskatchewan Method" as it originated in that
province. I think that previous conventions used the same method
currently employed by the NDP in BC and some other provinces. That
method is to have a committee sort through all the resolutions and
then put them into a priority list. The list can be appealed but the
committee has the final say in priorities.
The new method at this convention was for a central committee to sort
all resolutions into one of six categories, and then prioritize them
within each category. Near the start of the convention, delegates can
pick one of six simulatenous meetings, where they can vote on
reorganizing the order of resolutions, and also amending them.
There were two resolutions which our group was promoting, one calling
for the NDP to introduce legislation calling for non-punitive
marijuana policies, the other calling for expansion of the safe
injection site program into any communities that wanted one.
Our marijuana resolution had been passed by four riding associations,
and three other different marijuana resolutions were passed by other
groups. One of those was written by Libby Davies, and was a good
resolution but not quite as strident as the others. All of the
marijuana resolutions were clustered near the bottom of their
category, except for the one written by Davies, which was placed at a
reasonable 13. Not high enough to likely get debated, but good for a
list of 95 resolutions.
The safe injection site resolution had been placed in a different
category, and given a priority in the 30s. I was surprised as it is a
current issue and seems to have broad public support.
We decided to focus our efforts on Libby Davies' pot resolution,
hoping to amend it to make it a little stronger, and bump it up the
list. But despite our best efforts we didn't succeed. Our motion to
bump it up to number 5 was spoken against by MP Charlie Angus, who
just said it shouldn't be a priority at this time. The motion to
prioritize it to #5 was defeated by roughly 65%.
We tried some other maneouvers to get something on harm reduction
into an omnibus justice bill already at #5, but time for debate on
that item ended just as I was about to speak.
Although I wanted to get our resolution a higher priority, and I was
annoyed by Charlie Angus' comment about it not being an important
issue, something else happened during the meeting that was much
worse, and which seemed like an organized subversion of the process.
Our policy section included other justice and human rights issues,
including some resolutions on LGBT equality, and some opposing the
changes to the age of consent law which have been proposed by the
I figured that opposing change to the age of consent laws was a
no-brainer and would pass easily. But when this item came up for
debate and amendment, I looked behind me and saw a big crowd of
people standing in the back of the room. A motion was made to "table"
the resolution, which means sending it back to another committe for
further analysis. This is one way of killing a resolution and also
avoiding public debate on it. The motion to table carried, and then
the big voting block left the room.
Many people in the room were verbally and visibily pissed about this.
These folks had apparently organized themselves and had entered a few
debate rooms at key momments, to vote as a block on key issues.
Delegates were supposed to pick one of the six rooms and stick to
that section, but apparently these folks liked to bend the rules.
An LGBT equality resolution came up next, and I tried to get them to
slip in the conclusion of another resolution opposing change to the
age of consent laws, but my amendment was ruled out of order. Svend
Robinson spoke and got at least an amendment calling for the age of
consent to be the same for both hetero and homosexual acts.
So anyways, these sorts of shenanigans didn't impress me, although I
did learn from them what it takes to get a resolution through, and
how to block any you don't like.
However, much of this maneouvering was academic anyways, as when it
came time for the entire convention to debate the various policy
sections which had been prioritized the day before, not much time was
allowed and only the top 3-4 resolutions in each section got debated.
So even if we had gotten our marijuana resolution bumped to #5 it
still wouldn't have made the floor for debate.
SAFE INJECTION SITE RESOLUTION PASSES
We did get one resolution passed. Libby Davies pushed for a
resolution supporting the safe injection site to get into the
"emergency resolutions" section which get debated on the last day of
convention. This resolution was listed as #6 of six resolutions, but
we managed to speed through the other five and we got our resolution
So now the federal NDP has an official policy calling for Vancouver's
safe injection site program to be continued, and for other safe
injection sites to be created in any other communities that want one.
RUNNING FOR PREZ
John Shavluk, delegate for Delta North, is a passionate member of our
group and he was disappointed that our resolution didn't get to the
floor. He decided to run for a pair of positions in the party so he
could take the opportunity to draw attention to the importance of our
Shavluk ran for BC Provincial Council rep, and also President of the
NDP. In both cases he was running against a single opponent who had
broad support. I only caught one of his two speeches, but he did a
good job and used his three minutes to explain that marijuana and
prohibition were important issues which the NDP should support. He
didn't win either post of course, but he did a nice job and I think
delegates respected his position.
MEETING AND GREETING
In terms of meeting people, handing out our information, networking
and building grassroots support, the convention was a success. We
gave out about 800 buttons, hundreds of copies of our newsletter, a
big stack of LEAP DVDs, dozens of copies of Drug War Facts, and a
batch of BC Civil Liberties Association flyers.
We also met some enthusiastic people who agreed to start
eNDProhibition chapters in their provinces. In the next issue of the
End Prohibition News we'll be listing contact info for our Directors
in seven provinces: BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario,
Quebec and Nova Scotia.
I spoke briefly with both Stephen Lewis and Jack Layton. Lewis agreed
to let me interview him for a future issue of End Prohibition News,
and Layton told our group that he had supported our cause since 1973,
and to keep up the good work.
We missed the big party on Saturday night, jetlag and early mornings
caught up with most of our crew. But on Friday night we had a great
time smoking up everyone in the outdoor backroom of the NDP party
bar. We blazed three massive bombers and endless bowls of BC hash,
until a waiter finally asked if we could move the toking outside.
So all in all I'm glad that we were at the convention, and although
our marijuana resolution joined the other 98% of resolutions which
didn't get debated, we did garner a great deal of support for our
cause. We met many like-minded people across Canada who share our
goals, and we learned a great deal about how the convention process
works, and what tactics would work best in the future.
Over the next few months, I will be attending more NDP conventions
across Canada on behalf of eNDProhibition. I will be at the Ontario
Young New Democrat convention in October, the Saskatchewan NDP
convention in November, the Ontario NDP convention in January, and I
think the Manitoba NDP has a convention scheduled for March. At all
these events I will be working with others to educate NDP delegates
on the importance of these issues, and to pass resolutions against
the drug war.
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The unofficial anti-prohibition wing of Canada's NDP.