VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s New Democrats had a wonderful celebration of their party’s 50th anniversary. More than 700 party members from across the province gathered at the spacious Vancouver Convention Centre from December 9 to 11 to pay tribute to the party stalwarts like Tommy Douglas and provincial party leaders like Dave Barrett, Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark.
Party president Moe Sihota kicked off the 50th Anniversary Convention of the NDP by welcoming the delegates, guests and the media. He stated that for the betterment of Canadians, the NDP had drastically changed the political landscape at the national and provincial levels since its inception 50 years ago. He paid tribute to Tommy Douglas for introducing Medicare as premier of Saskatchewan. This concept has become one of the most cherished legacies of Douglas and the NDP. Sihota emphasized that due to its people oriented policies and programs, the NDP has become the conscience of Canada.
Sihota went on to state that at the provincial level, Dave Barrett’s government, right after its election in 1972, was a breath of fresh air for British Columbians. Its initiatives like the ALR, ICBC, free collective bargaining rights, elimination of the strap in BC schools and Pharmacare etc. have stood the test of time. Later, under Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark, BC became a beacon of hope for the needy and ordinary British Columbians. The progress made in the area of environmental protection under these premiers was remarkable. BC was the first province in Canada to set aside 12% of its land base as parkland. As a matter of fact, Moe Sihota, as the minister of environment at that time, is still considered to be the best minister of environment in this province’s history.
It was under Glen Clark’s leadership that 40,000 new seats for post-secondary students were created. Not only that, the student fees were frozen and the first modern day treaty with the Nishga was signed.
The opening session on Friday (December 9) also included a tribute to federal NDP leader late Jack Layton and his legacy. Single handedly, Layton has brought the federal NDP to be the official opposition. His breakthrough in Quebec in the May2 election this year was nothing but remarkable. New Democrats gathered at the convention paid a well-deserved tribute to this great leader and visionary.
The tribute to Layton was followed by a discussion titled: Riding the Orange Wave. Well-respected NDP strategists from three provinces –Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia shared their experience in making huge strides in each of those provinces. Nova Scotia has now an NDP government under Darrell Dexter. Manitoba New Democrats have won their fourth consecutive victory under Greg Selinger. In Ontario too, the NDP made huge gains. These strategists gave insight into winning elections, which should be very helpful to BC New Democrats for the provincial election scheduled for May 2013.
Saturday, December 10 was also full of action. It started out with an inspiring address by BC NDP leader Adrian Dix. Dix outlined an ambitious agenda for the next eighteen months. He urged New Democrats throughout the province to continue to work hard in order to win the next election. Dix stated that stimulating economic growth, proper use of resources in creating well paying jobs and providing stability will be some of his major objectives if he is elected premier. Incidentally, at every NDP convention there is a leadership review vote. To no ones surprise, Dix received an overwhelming 98.1 % support indicating that New Democrats in BC are very satisfied with his leadership. Dix was followed by keynote speaker Van Jones an inspiring speaker whose talk was not only extremely stimulating but also very entertaining.
Later in the afternoon the delegates were treated to a very enjoyable Federal Leadership Candidate Townhall. Nine excellent candidates are vying to fill the position left vacant by Jack Layton. All of them articulated their positions and platforms in a very impressive manner. The vote to elect the federal NDP leader will take place on March 24. This leadership race being a one member one vote, BC’s 31,000 members will have a huge impact on the outcome.
Sunday, December 11, was the final of the three-day gathering. In addition to dealing with a number of resolutions, the delegates were treated to impressive speeches by interim federal NDP leader Nicole Termil and BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair. Also, they elected slate of officers for the next two years. Moe Sihota and his slate of officers were elected by acclamation. It was also great to see my good friend and party activist Gian Sihota elected as one of the Regional Reps for Richmond-Surrey-Delta.
Adrian Dix concluded the Convention by thanking the delegates, staff and volunteers for successfully putting on an exciting Convention. He urged every member of the party to work hard and ensure that we have an NDP government in place in Victoria in May2013.All in all, it was a very productive, stimulating and enjoyable Convention. As a matter of fact, it was one of the best ones that this writer has attended over the years.
Balwant Sanghera is a long time NDP member and activist. He is a member of the Provincial Council, the party’s policymaking body.