Meet the elephant in the room

Last week, we reported provincial New Democrats MLAs would be cuddling up with one another for an extended nose-stretching session at Dunsmuir Lodge and Conference Centre. Of course, the substance of those proceedings is supposed to be under lock and key. And those who remember the real-time leaking that occured during the Clark administration seem determined to ensure their (wind) pipes remain sealed. But, according to our tipsters, the most interesting discussion at the retreat was the one that didn't happen.

Astute Public Eye readers will recall, in a post-leadership convention interview with The Vancouver Sun's Jim Beatty, party grand poobah Carole James said "We have to modernize our relationship with labour." As part of that modernization push, a 10-member affiliation committee chaired by lawyer and former New Democrat president Ian Aikenhead has been studying the issue of union affiliation. And a resolution on that issue is expected at the party's upcoming convention.

But, even though convention is just three months away, affiliation was not talked about at the retreat. The official explanation is that Ms. James wants to wait till the aforementioned committee's final report, which will be presented at New Democrat provincial council meeting scheduled for September 16 and 17. But there may have been some concern this divisive issue wouldn't be an appropriate agenda item for a meeting where many MLAs would be getting to know one another for the first time.

A fair point, to be sure. But, if Ms. James wants a new relationship with labour, this discussion needs to occur sooner rather than later. Because the present lack of monmentum for de-affiliation is strengthening the hand of those council members who would prefer the status quo.

21 Comments

It appears that the New Era gang got a whole lot more cash from business than the NDP ever dreamed about getting from anyone including unions. So let's all not get our shorts in a knot and wait to see what the outcome is from the committee set up . A covention will debate the options and vote. I'm waiting for Gordo and gang to vote against the big money folks handing over the cash. I was in two federal unions and in both of them, the membership money could not under the constitutions of both those unions, be used to support any politician. some members gave to assorted parties.Believe it or not, union folks are citizen taxpayers too.

On the face of it, ending labour affiliation is a good idea. But consider this: is getting rid of unions in the NDP (many of which are private sector) going to make the party stronger, or more namby pamby. Unions are organized and are a strong voice in the party. Who will be the strong voice in the party if affiliation is ended? Vancouverite latte-sucking freaks? Yep. Probably. And that's not going to do much to de-wussify the NDP. Until the party is going in the direction of the average working person, let's keep labour, or the party will continue to be dominated by urban electric-volvo driving sake-drinking fools from Vancouver. That's not good for the province or the party. And, consider this: the union that may have cost the NDP votes in the last election wasn'e even affiliated to the NDP.

Dagmar, you're an idiot. There's nothing wrong with being a latte-drinker (provided, of course, that it's an organic soy milk latte).

I guess it's time to remind ourselves that the CCF the parent of the NDP was a joint effort by the average person and Labour.

I'm not a Latte or capichino sucker from the lower mainland. I can't see anyone dropping about 4 bucks for a coffee. My choice is decafinated black. My political choice is the NDP as the best party for the little guy, the minorities, women and the ones who try to make life a bit better for all of the above. They don't always do what I would like them to do but darn it, when they are government they govern for all.

Who else should government be for exc ept those people that you mentioned. It shouldn't be foruppity freaks living in Yaletown. It shouldn't be for rich corporations. It should be for 'the little guy'.

If we get rid of labour now, what other interests are there in the NDP that are as organized. Oh yeah, the socialist caucus. Nope, don't want them, they don't speak for ordinary folks, only freaks who are too lazy to get a job. Oh yeah, there's the Vancouver elite which already has too much influence in the NDP. Nope, don't want them, they have already cost us seats in too many elections.

The labour-NDP relationship is a problem, but until something better comes along that is as organized as Labour and that also represents working people (not freaks), I'll take the status quo with Labour.

Your turn, A. Vancouverite.

And thus we are made privy to the NDP rending itself apart. What a delightful sight.

"Moderate and Balanced" got you 33 seats, not a labour driven agenda, Dagmar. However the multi-million, union funded third party advertising campaign going ultra negative on the government helped too!

The fact is that you don't need to have labour and the NDP formerly affiliated for them to walk in Borg-like lockstep. That's simply an outgrowth of the shared ideology. So why not end the affiliation as a good PR move and carry on like nothing has changed.

Dumb, impractical socialists!

Hey, A. Vancouverite you stole my name and relegated me to B. Vancouverite.

Question Dagmar, I thought from reading your humorous posts on another message board that you drink latte's?

I think that if the NDP gets rid of the labour affiliation mechanism the real relationship between working people, and especially unionized working people, will improve.

I disagree with dagmar on this one. I have been to conventions, at my own expense, and have been lectured there by guys on expenses about what's what. It's kind of non-optimal if you know what I mean.

That's what I love about the NDP. They have the "socialist caucus" that believes nobody should work, and the "labour" supporters who believe their cousin Vinny should get the job.

That is what I love about the liberals, give them big money and they will do for you your liking, even if it means environemntal deterioration,scaling back emplotyment standards, and selling you some prime crown corporations.
The liberal lie that they are the only ones who work hard is a bit of a joke, and nespotism is blooming bigger than ever their in liberal land.


What the NDP needs to do is reduce the influence from the unions but keep them working for them as they are rather effective at helping at election time. The unions won't just go away 'cause they know having a NDP government is good for them.Then the NDP have to get together with the Greens by giving them a seat. Then they have to win the next election and all future elections. Second place, which is where the NDP usually find themselves is not worth a tinkers poot.
If the NDP cannot find it in their hearts to win then it behooves them to quit out and let some other party form 'cause getting rid of the Socreds or Liberals or whatever they call themselves is way too important. They are screwing the province big time.
In the next election the NDP will be going against Carol Taylor, you just watch, then guess what, the NDP will loose again. They have to do something about the Greens before the next election.
It's easy to predict the future if you remember the past.

Hey, I'm not saying the relationship is ideal. But let's face it, ending affiliation will leave one giant power vacuum. I don't want that power vacuum to be filled by the socialist caucus/freaky left, the out-of-touch Vancouver crowd, or the environmentalist wing which would make it easier to get a welfare cheque than a cutting permit. I'm saying that UNTIL there is a stronghold of sane, non-freaky New Democrats who are able to hold the party together, we shouldn't change things. Frankly, unions like the IWA and building trades are at times the sanest people we have. IF we let the socialists and vancouver crowd take over, the party will be relegated to the fringe, reduced to handing out pamphlets at bong shops on East Hastings. Nobody wants that.

By the way, I admitted, on Rabble, that I did try a latte. I did, but I didn't inhale.

Well Dagmar, surely you will admit that one of the problems with travel in the Interior is that there's not a drinkable cup of coffee to be had from Kamloops to Prince George. Very dry country indeed! But there is Horsting's Farm in Cache Creek for the best soup and sandwiches in the country, so I guess that partly makes up for it.

But I digress. Your post talks abaout "one giant power vacuum". This implies that at present labour delegates from affiliates are a very, very powerful force within the NDP. Is that how you see it?

As for the IWA (now Steelworkers), with their major Fraser Valley local in great difficulty I don't see how they are in shape to be making a major political effort right now. And with public sector unions, there is always a suspicion that their political participation is too self-interested, a viewpoint shared by many in the private sector unions. All in all, a less formal arrangement between the NDP and Labour would seem to be beneficial.

I must admit this is an odd one. I am not going to pick a side just yet but here are my two thoughts. (Even though this is more a diary entry to summarize and reflect)

Currently,

They can still donate along with business and associations until the electoral financing laws change.

They already don't have a direct vote on leadership with OMOV.

Functionally we are talking about whether they can send delegates to convention to vote on policy and the executive. As for the executive the last three presidents haven't been from an affiliated labour union and as for policy political parties don't have the best track record for sticking only to party policy.

Perception wise the party is dealing with the notion that labour controls, or highly influences the NDP. This seems to me to be the only reason for the change. So here are my questions? (and they are questions...I don't know the answers one way or another)

If labour deaffiliates (or is removed) will that change the perception in the short term or long term?

Is this the best time to have this discussion, or should it be solved with swift changes to electoral finacing reform when the NDP gains a majority?

With unions such as the BCGEU not having an affiliation to the party, but still having incredible influence in the party, will anything actually change functionally?

Is there an argument that the NDP was founded as a partnership with labour and that if that relationship is to change the party should have to revert back to the CCF or form a new party? (that is my favourite one...just think of the chaos)

Is anyone still reading this?

Richard Tones

Good points. That and the fact that unions are the only force that represents at least some real New Democrats. Get rid of them and it will by the tyranny of the bums and freaks in the party.

Given that it is organized labor that continues to keep the NDP alive, both financially and otherwise, why has labor suddenly become such a dirty word to the party? Does Carole James seriously think that right wingers will vote NDP without labor enshrined in the party constitution?

Kevin Larsen is stating "facts" which aren't facts. Labour is not the major contributor to the NDP, at least not to anything like the degree to which business is the financial support base of the Liberals, both federally and provincially. Kevin knows full well that's the case. That's why he makes the statements he does.

Richard raises some interesting questions about perceptions. If the NDP did remove labour affiliation from it's constitution, would that really bring more non-labour activists into the party? Or would it simply be a case of "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush", with labour activists falling away and no one taking their place?

As far as I can tell, there would be just as many opportunities for labour activists to be involved in the party, and unions would still be able to pay their expenses to go to conventions as delegates from ridings, while regular riding delegates would still be paying their own way, a beef I have had for some time.

I do believe that if labour's role in the party is less official, more informal, that other activists are going to respond with an increased level of activity. I have heard complaints from many people about being excluded because they weren't involved in unions.

You're right, Budd. Over 60% of donations from the NDP come from individuals (presumably working people without a pot habit to feed) while the Liberals get 70%+ of their dough from corporations. But unions are organized (being unions) and that's their importance.

I don't know why 'organized labour' is such a dirty word in some circles. At least they represent ordinary workers. That's who matters when you're trying to figure out who to govern for.

What Planet are you on Budd ? Look at any NDP Candidate’s financial disclosure on the Elections BC website form the last election – Labor is the major donor for each and every candidate. That is a fact. You show me one NDP candidate that disclosed more money form individual donors and not a Union, just one.

Labor IS the major donor to the NDP, both directly, and ever more so as a third party. Those are the facts Budd. Does business donate to the Liberals as you claim? Absolutely. The difference is there is no lame ass attempt to claim otherwise, as you have just attempted to do with the NDP and labor.

Without the BCGEU, HEU, BCTF, CUPE, and BC Fed the NDP would be nothing, but hey, if you want to live in the charade, by all means, fill your boots.

"... Look at any NDP Candidate’s financial disclosure on the Elections BC website form the last election – Labor is the major donor for each and every candidate. That is a fact"

Kevin, those statements are absolutely false. And you know it.

Do people just donate at election time? Kevin, over the past 4 years, the Liberals have recieved shitloads of cash from corporation. 70% of donations. That's a fact. Over the past 4 years, the NDP has recieved over 60% of donations from individuals. That's also a fact. What do you hate about unions? Are you jealous that union workers have a jobs that are good paying?

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.