Confidential affiliation report revealed!

Earlier, Public Eye reported an internal provincial New Democrat's committee had recommended allowing affiliated province-wide unions (as opposed to locals) to sent two delegates each to convention - a significant reduction. And now we have the proof! Public Eye has exclusively obtained a copy of the committee's confidential and final majority report, which stops short of banning labour groups from affiliating with the party. But it seems even that change didn't sit well with the unionists.

The committee's three labour movement members - United Steelworkers of America district three director Steve Hunt, former Canadian Union of Public Employees British Columbia secretary-treasurer Colleen Jordan and British Columbia Federation of Labour secretary-treasurer Angie Schira - have signed-off on a potentially explosive minority report that stands behind the status quo. And they are also recommending provincial council reject the majority report and wait till a consensus solution can be reached. The following is a complete copy of those reports, which were distributed to council members last night. A version of this article was originally published in today's edition of 24 hours.

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CONFIDENTIAL

FINAL REPORT OF THE BCNDP AFFILIATION COMMITTEE
September 7, 2005

Terms of Reference

This Committee is empowered through the following resolution which was adopted at the 2003 BCNDP Convention:

C2003--02 THE PARTY AND THE LABOUR MOVEMENT

WHEREAS since the earliest days of the CCF the Party has had a special relationship with the trade union movement and its members; and
WHEREAS in coming years legislation may alter the financial aspects of affiliated membership participation, as has occurred at the federal level and in other provinces; and
WHEREAS the B.C. NDP is on record supporting the reform of campaign financing; and
WHEREAS to remain effective any dynamic organization must periodically review its structure and its relationships with other organizations;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the B.C. NDP review the structures that govern our relationship with affiliated members; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT to conduct this review the Provincial Executive immediately appoint an ad hoc Committee, representing individual and affiliated members, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Committee be empowered to seek the cooperation of all Party bodies and individuals; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Committee formulate recommendations to retain and/or change the structures that govern affiliated members; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT consideration be given to different models of participation and representation by the affiliated membership in anticipation of new party financing legislation, including but not limited to changes such as those being proposed by the Federal Council of the NDP for the 2005 NDP of Canada Convention; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT such a Committee forward its recommendations in a preliminary report, with any minority reports attached, to the second Provincial Council meeting of 2004, and a final report with recommendations for discussion at the Council's third regularly scheduled meeting in 2004.

Constitution and Party Affairs Committee with thanks and reference to resolutions proposed by Oak Bay Gordon Head and Saanich South the Salt Spring NDP Club

Also, a further resolution was adopted which amended the Constitution by adding Article 19.02, which allows Provincial Council, on a 3/4 vote, to amend the Constitution to implement the recommendations of this Committee and the OMOV (""One Member, One Vote"") Committee.

The Committee Process

This Committee met on a number of occasions in 2004 and 2005. Minutes were kept and reports were issued. Input was requested of all bodies of the BCNDP, and the Committee wishes to express their appreciation for those valuable comments from members and constituent bodies.
Membership on the Committee was determined as directed in the resolution and consisted of:

Ian Aikenhead, Q.C. (Chair)
Angela Schira
Colin Gabelmann
Colleen Jordan
George Heyman
Gretchen Brewin (withdrew May 2005)
Jane Burton
Linda Asgeirsson
Moe Sihota (appointed June 2005)
Steve Hunt

All of the Affiliation Committee members expressed an appreciation of the importance of the labour movement historically and currently to the BCNDP. The NDP was created out of a coalition with the labour movement, and the labour movement shares common goals and is an important partner of the BCNDP.

The clear assumption of the Affiliation Committee is that the purpose of any recommended change is to ensure that now and in the future all British Columbians who share our vision, including trade union members, are encouraged to join the BCNDP and become more active in our Party at every level.

This Committee first provided a detailed discussion paper in May 2004 which was discussed at the following Provincial Council. We made no recommendations at that time, but made a number of comments to help advance the debate, and provided options for consideration by Provincial Council. Provincial Council and other party members have provided us with helpful input which assisted our discussion.

A second report was brought forward to Provincial Council in September of 2004 which included an elaboration on the opinions held by party members on the issue as well as the related issues discussed by this Committee, with a recommendation that the matter be next dealt with at the Provincial Council in September 2005 as all further efforts in an election year should be focussed on the campaign.

This third report brings forward our final recommendations on this matter.

Discussion of Affiliation

There are a variety of views within the party and within the labour movement concerning affiliation. This discussion cannot be taken in isolation of the OMOV initiative and our commitment to campaign finance reform. The motivation for the affiliation review is linked to our goal of ensuring a democratically governed Party and ultimately a provincial government that is reflective of the wishes of the people.

There are certainly those within the party who believe that the current affiliation policy is serving our party very well. Others believe that we need to modernise and change the relationship between labour and the NDP. Some argue that a move away from this affiliation system could be an advantage to us with the electorate. Others believe that a move away from affiliation will damage the party and hurt its electoral chances.

Many union activists came to the party through activism through their own local union affiliated with the party. For some union activists, their participation in the party has been fostered and encouraged by their union's affiliation with the party. The support of their union, and the accountability back to the union as their participation in the party increases, may strengthen a member's voice within the party.

Members of some unions are opposed to affiliation with any political party by their union, although supporting personal individual membership. However, these same unions also strongly support political activism as part of union activity, both on policy and electoral fronts. They suggest that union members of non-affiliated unions have been more motivated to be involved within the NDP because the only way they had to get involved with politics has been through the constituency organizations of the NDP. However, affiliated unions believe that their members are more motivated through the affiliation process, and they believe that affiliates are a conduit through which new members to the NDP are signed up.

Some of those who say that the better way for trade unionists to participate in the NDP is through the constituencies also point out that the current model provides affiliates with Convention delegate entitlements based upon the number of union members in the affiliated organization, rather than linking entitlement to the number of NDP members, and fosters a perception that affiliates hold a disproportionate influence over Convention votes.

Also expressed to the Committee was the opinion is that there is a consensus within our party that the status quo or current affiliation policy is not acceptable, and that the real issue is the scope and pace of change in this area. The crucial question would then become how to improve the quality (and quantity) of participation at the rank and file level of the trade union movement within the party.

It has been pointed out that affiliates federally could always have been organizations other than labour, and now that affiliation fees no longer exist, a variety of groups could become affiliates including community organizations (other than tax-receiptable charities). This could be a method of bringing together diverse groups within the party.

It was suggested that whatever process we recommend, the goal is to encourage the involvement of union members, and others who also share the party's goals, at the constituency, and all levels of our party. When new NDP members are signed up within the labour movement, they should be encouraged to be as active as possible within the constituencies and other levels of the party.

The view has also been expressed that NDP members should be encouraged to be involved with party matters through their own affiliated union, to strengthen the relationship between the party and the affiliate. Using the affiliate's policy initiatives, political action committees and other means, strong ties can be created to strengthen the party.

Related Work at the Provincial and Federal Level

It is important to note that there is work ongoing, both federally and provincially, that touch on some of the matters that this Committee has been asked to consider.

At the 2003 BCNDP Convention, two related resolutions were passed:

Resolution J2003-01, which called for a BCNDP platform to include electoral finance reform that would include allowing only individual contributions, no financial contributions from unions or corporations, as well as a limit on the maximum value of contributions from individuals, and by developing mechanisms for public financing. In other words, a version of the federal Bill
C-24. The Leader and all Candidates during the May 2005 election championed campaign finance reform, and this commitment garnered significant support from the electorate and positive commentary from the media. The Leader and Caucus continue to advocate strongly for campaign finance reform.

Resolution C2003-01 called for a special committee to be struck to consider "One Member One Vote" ("OMOV"), and that this OMOV Committee bring back recommendations "to formulate the rules for the next Leadership election to ensure that individual and affiliated members are entitled to cast ballots for the Leader of the BC NDP". The OMOV Committee has reported to Provincial Council, and Provincial Council is in the process of amending the BCNDP Constitution (as authorized by the 2003 Convention) so that future Leadership votes will be conducted by One Member, One Vote.

Responding to Bill C-24, which became law effective January 1, 2004, the Federal NDP has made interim changes to its policy to allow affiliated organizations, but without fees. This may mean that affiliated organizations in the future may not be exclusively trade union organizations, but other groups may also affiliate with the federal NDP. This has always been possible, but has been rarely used in the past.

Also, the Federal Party has changed their method of voting at conventions in several ways, including One Member One Vote ("OMOV") when it comes to electing a leader, and the phasing out of extra delegates based on past financial contributions for affiliated organizations after the next federal convention. The federal party has made these changes largely in response to Bill C-24, which (as indicated above) has limited corporate or union donations to political parties to less than $1,000 annually.

In the process, a debate has been joined federally as to the most effective structural relationship between the federal party and labour. The federal changes are to some extent transitional, and further changes are anticipated after the next federal convention. Affiliation will continue, with some differences, but there will no longer be any affiliation fees.

Discussion on Recommendations

While many options were considered by the Committee, three were given significant consideration before ultimately being determined to be inadequate, and not recommended:

1. The current situation, or status quo, with no current change.

While some opinion was held on the Committee that the status quo continues to meet the needs of the Party, others disagreed and believed that changes at the Federal level and the BCNDP commitment to modernization, including campaign finance reform and OMOV, demand change now. A minority on the Committee will provide a minority report at the conclusion of this report, supporting keeping the status quo.

2. In 2005, immediate, or phased removal of all direct affiliation by labour to the party, and all membership in the party in the future be through the constituencies only.

While this option was attractive to some members, on the basis that all New Democrats in B.C. should have the same rights, privileges and treatment, there was a recognition by others that the historic purpose of the affiliation provision - to give voice to organizations that share our common purpose in the ongoing policy debate within the Party - should not be abandoned if a modern, more inclusive model could be found as an alternative.

3. The "Federal Model".

A considerable portion of our deliberations concerned the "Federal Model" currently being implemented by the federal NDP. However, there are a number of practical and philosophical difficulties with the Federal Model, and it would need to be significantly adapted to be used in B.C. By the conclusion of our lengthy discussions and debates, no one was advancing the straight "Federal Model". The compromise proposal that the majority of this Committee is advancing borrows some of its attributes from the Federal Model, and it is the hope of the majority of the Committee that the proposal that is being made takes the best of that "Federal Model".

The majority of the Committee after considerable deliberation, rejected these three options, and hopes that by placing the Committee's compromise proposal before Provincial Council, that we will have dealt with a number of the concerns expressed to us, including the issue of perceived democratic voting rights and the perception of control of the convention and our party, while avoiding a termination of the important structural partnership with labour.

Recommendation of the Affiliation Committee

The Committee is unanimous in wanting trade unions and their members to continue to play a significant and partnering role in the party. We believe in and support the partnership which created the NDP in 1961. We believe that the NDP is the only effective voice for working people and the organizations which represent them.

In seeking advice from the party to help us understand the intent of Resolution C2003-02 we encountered an overwhelming desire to retain our partnership with the trade union movement. We also found a party wanting to change and to modernize its structures: to move to one person one vote for Leader; to end corporate and union contributions to political parties; and to strengthen the party by ensuring that Convention delegates came through Constituency Associations and not affiliated organizations.

We worked long and hard in an attempt to produce a consensus report. In the end that proved impossible even though all committee members were prepared to, and did, compromise.

The majority of the Committee believe we would not be reflecting the wishes of the delegates to the last Provincial Convention were we to recommend no change to the status quo. The majority believe the party wants to modernize by ensuring that its leaders and its policies are determined by party members working through their constituency associations.

Unions affiliated to the Federal NDP would no longer have rights to send delegates or resolutions to Provincial Constituencies, Provincial Council or Provincial Convention. However, any BC organization (including unions) whose membership, whether individual or affiliated, is province wide or potentially province wide would be eligible to be defined as a "Provincial Organization". If they meet the criteria, they can apply to join the BCNDP for no fee and be entitled to two delegates at convention and entitled to send resolutions to convention and council.

In general terms, the majority of the Committee recommends:

- formal acknowledgement in the constitution of the historic representation enjoyed by Labour on the Provincial Council and Provincial Executive;

- the provision of a mechanism for Provincial Organizations to join the Party (for no fee) with a more limited opportunity to have their voice heard at Provincial Conventions.

Below are our five recommendations, followed by the Constitutional amendments required to give them effect.

1. We recommend that any Provincial Organization (whether affiliated to the Federal Party or not) become eligible to join the BC NDP if it ""officially undertakes to accept and abide by the Constitution and principles of the Party and has been approved for membership by the Provincial Executive"". No fee would be paid for this category of membership.

2. We recommend that each of these organizations be eligible to send two delegates, who are individual members of the BC NDP, to Provincial Conventions. These Provincial Organizations would also have the right to send resolutions to Provincial Conventions and to Provincial Council.

3. We recommend that the above provisions would replace the current provisions in the BC NDP Constitution concerning the rights of representation and participation at both the Provincial and the Constituency levels of affiliated organizations.

5. We recommend that the position of a labour Vice-President and labour member-at-large on the Provincial Executive be retained (as is the current practice), and that six (instead of four) labour representatives be on the Provincial Council, all to be elected by the labour caucus at the Provincial Convention.

Constitutional Amendments Required

The following constitutional amendments would be required to give effect to the above recommendations:

1. Article III be deleted and replaced with "Provincial Organizations are those organizations which are declared to be affiliated to the BCNDP by the Provincial Executive, and shall include those organizations affiliated to the Federal Party which have an active membership throughout British Columbia. Any organization which seeks to be affiliated to the BCNDP shall be eligible if they officially undertake to accept and abide by the Constitution of the Party and have been approved for membership by the Provincial Executive. Any organization whose membership includes membership on a province-wide basis, and whose membership is open to individuals or affiliates throughout British Columbia, shall be entitled to apply to be a Provincial Organization. For any organization which has an internal structure which would allow for components to have a province-wide membership, only the parent organization would be entitled to be designated as a Provincial Organization.
2. Article 5.06 be deleted.
3. Article 5.07 be deleted.
4. Article 6.07 be deleted.
5. Article 9.04 be deleted.
6. Article 8.06 add "Civic" between the words "Affiliated" and "Organization"
7. Articles 10.04, 10.05 and 10.07 be amended by deleting "affiliated organization" and replacing it with "Provincial Organization"
8. Article 10.10 (2) be replaced with: "Provincial Organizations which officially undertake to accept and abide by the Constitution and principles of the Party and have been approved for membership by the Provincial Executive shall be entitled to two delegates"".
9. Article 10.11 change "affiliates" to "Provincial Organizations"
10. Article 12.01 delete "and affiliated"
11. Article 13.01 b) ii) replace with: "The Labour Vice President and one labour member at large elected by labour delegates at labour caucus at convention."
12. Article 13.01 b) iv) change "Four" to "Three".
13. Article 15.01 replace: "representatives of affiliated organizations" with "six representatives elected by labour delegates at labour caucus at convention".
14. Article 15.02 be deleted.

Submitted by the BCNDP Affiliation Committee (Majority): Ian Aikenhead, Q.C. (Chair), Colin Gabelmann, George Heyman, Jane Burton, Linda Asgeirsson and Moe Sihota

Minority Report

The affiliated union representatives on the Affiliation Committee regrets that it must file a Minority Report, reflecting the deep division over the issues canvassed in the Committee's discussions.

This lack of consensus among the members of this Committee indicates fundamental internal differences regarding the desirability and potential impact of proposals for changes to the role of affiliated partnership labour organizations in Party affairs.

The Majority Report presented to members does not reflect all of the Committee discussions or the conclusions of the Committee members. It is also very important to state there is no consensus with the affiliates of the New Democratic Party (NDP). It is our belief that a Minority Report is needed to reflect the views and restate the position of the affiliated partners of the NDP.

In presenting this Minority Report, we believe it is important for Party members to know that the undersigned Committee members represent the voice of Party affiliated unions that share a longstanding institutional commitment to the policies and program of the NDP. In the course of our work, we consulted with all of the Party's affiliated unions, and we believe this report reflects not only our own individual views, but also the prevailing sentiment of this section of the Party.

Labour with the NDP: Misperceptions of Current Model

While the Convention resolution mandating this review did not direct us to make recommendations to diminish the role of organized labour in our Party, the range of options advocated by the majority throughout our deliberations presumed this outcome.

The organizational participation of the labour movement was a founding principle of the NDP in 1961, as leaders of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) sought to bring together a viable progressive political party capable of electoral success.

Yet throughout the Committee's deliberations, we did not hear any compelling arguments for diminishing the representational role of the labour movement in the Party's leadership and governance structures.

The three main reasons advanced for reducing the role of labour are:

1. Some Party members believe the current provisions give organized labour too much power and influence over Party decision.

2. Campaign finance reform will require changes in the structure of the Party.

3. The Party will gain more electoral success if labour's involvement is reduced in the Party.

As Committee members, we have spent some time examining each of these reasons and challenged the premise of these arguments. In order, our response has been:

1. No member of the Executive Council, Provincial Council, Convention Delegate or Constituency has more than one vote.

However, the argument that NDP members who are also union members can vote for a resolution or delegate at both their constituency and affiliated union holds true for many other members who are not union members. We have provided several examples of where Young New Democrats, members of the Women's Committee and other party Committees have the same ability to vote in different groups.

An analysis of the delegate selection and entitlement reveals little support for the argument that labour controls the Party. If we are to look at past conventions, the affiliated partners as a whole only made up between 18% to 25% of the Convention Delegates. When you look at the 2005 delegate entitlement, the combined total of four of the 79 constituency associations would have more delegates than all of the affiliated partners' delegates that make up 18% of the delegates to convention. And while affiliated partners receive two delegates for the first 260 affiliated members and one for every additional 800 affiliated members, constituency associations receive one for every 40 members.

2. We note that changes to the Federal NDP's constitution were necessitated by the realization of election finance reform. And as part of the changes, the Federal Party recognized the partnership it had with the labour movement and that partnership needed to be reflected in the reforms. In British Columbia, (fair) election finance reform is unlikely for at least four years.

3. Some party members have expressed the view that there should be no constitutional rights afforded to the labour movement, and that trade unionists should participate in the party solely as individual members of constituency associations. We find this disturbing at a fundamental level.

We find this move towards an USA model of individual politics a very disturbing trend. The promotion of the individual approach to political parties can clearly be seen across the border. The lack of collectivism in politics has prevented our neighbours from achieving many of the achievements we have made right here in British Columbia and across Canada.

For 200 years, workers have worked collectively to gain influence on public policy and workplace conditions through their unions. Throughout that time, we have become accustomed to the efforts of business interests to restrict and deprive working people of influence.

To accomplish their goals in both public and workplace spheres, they portray our collective influence as malevolent, undemocratic, and a hindrance to progress. They would prefer that workers only participate as individual players in the workplace and in politics, knowing that an "individualized" working class will have less influence on our economic and political destiny. Accordingly, their public criticism of what are, in effect, the founding organizing principles of the NDP is unlikely to be diminished unless the relationship between labour and the balance of the social democratic movement is fully and genuinely severed. We firmly believe that as long as there is any participation by union activists in party affairs, advocacy of support for the NDP within labour, or financial support for political action, business forces will not be satisfied.

Affiliation Committee: Different Models Rejected

The affiliates of the NDP supported the 2003 Convention resolution that created the Affiliation Committee and engaged in good faith discussions with the other members of the Committee.

Our goal on the Committee was to take the direction of the resolution seriously - to look at other models of affiliation.

And we brought forward legitimate models that were rejected entirely out of hand by those who support the Majority Report:

* We suggested looking at treating the affiliated partners similarly as a constituency of the party - not acceptable.
* We suggested adopting the Federal NDP Model of Affiliation - not acceptable.
* And we suggested looking at tweaking the Federal NDP Model of Affiliation - not acceptable.
* Current model (even though it was an option in the resolution) - not acceptable.

We were shocked to see the rationale in the Majority Report for rejecting the Federal NDP Model because "there are a number of practical and philosophical difficulties with the Federal Model." At no time were any "philosophical" difficulties presented by any member of the Committee.

In fact, some members that supported the Majority Report did not appear to understand the Federal Model. A request was made for a briefing from the Federal Party to ensure all Committee members understood the Federal Model and potential changes to it...that did not happen.

And no explanation is provided in the Majority Report as to what philosophical differences are found in the Federal Party structures. Council must ask what is the philosophical difference with our Federal Party?

As Committee members, we were left with little choice but to support the current model of affiliation, which has held as a good stead and saw the election of three provincial governments. How could we be expected to continue looking at different models when no one could articulate how a particular model did or did not meet an undefined test?

Majority Recommendation

The Majority Report states their recommendation is a "compromise proposal" - but with whom did those Committee members compromise? Again, no Committee member from the affiliated partners agreed with the Majority recommendation.

It is important that we provide our comments on recommendation forwarded through the Majority Report.

1. Creation of Two Separate Parties

A major concern we have is that the recommendation will move us away from the Federal party - and thus create two separate parties.

Under the current model, Affiliation to the NDP is tied to Federal Party. An affiliated organization must belong to the Federal Party in order to participate in the Provincial party.

Under the Majority recommendation, there is no longer a requirement for an affiliated organization to belong to the Federal Party. We now have a two-tier membership - affiliated union members can just be members of the provincial party whereas NDP constituency members are members of both Provincial and the Federal Party.

2. Lack of Membership Growth

Another concern is that the Majority's recommendation will hinder growth in the party.

The experience of the affiliates is that affiliation to the party has been the conduit through which new members to the NDP are signed up and become more active in the Party.

Limiting convention delegates to two members per provincial organization will translate into a significant reduction in the participation of many NDP members through their affiliated union.

3. Lack of Diversity of Voices

The arbitrary designation of two delegates per provincial organization - regardless of the organization's size - will limit the expression of a number of views within our Party.

With large and diverse affiliate organizations like the United Steelworkers - who represent workers in a wide range of industries including forestry, mining, clerical and retail - they will be limited to two delegates to express the views of their membership.

The consequence of limiting the number of delegates to two means choosing between sending either rank and file members to participate in the Party or elected union leaders.

Another consequence is that union locals from around the province would no longer be able to send delegates to convention - rather they are limited to two delegates from their entire organization, regardless of the size of the organization.

4. Accountability

As affiliated unions, the NDP and the political process are an integral part of the union's planning and priorities for each year. Affiliation has to be passed by Executive Boards of each union, by their annual conventions, or at local meetings.

There is accountability by the labour leadership to its union membership to continue with affiliation to the Party and to enable the union to dedicate significant financial and staff resources. In some unions, they have approved a yearlong plan to dedicate significant resources to ensure NDP governments get elected. Their plans include internal NDP membership drives, voter registration drives, election training workshops, and hiring political action co-ordinators. All in the name of supporting their commitment to the NDP.

The affiliated unions undertake this as part of their affiliation commitment and responsibility to the Party.

The removal of an affiliation clause from the Constitution of local unions who are no longer able to affiliate to the Party could be cause for them to expend their human and fiscal resources as an interest group outside of the Party's structures and policy - similarly to the USA model discussed earlier.

Conclusion

We believe that it is a sad day that the two partners could not find consensus on this important and fundamental relationship.

No one wins when we are divided. And we believe the Provincial Executive and Provincial Council should send the Committee back until it does.

6 Comments

Having read only the material here on Public Eye Online, I would have to say that the minority report by Hunt, Schira and Jordan reminds me of the kind of attitude that Nancy Riche adopted a few years ago at a Federal NDP meeting. The basic theme was to read the party its rights and defy anyone to argue.

Personally, I thought that Angela Schira has more intelligence than what has been displayed in this minority report.

After the budget is released, all you could come up with is a "potentially explosive minority report" on union affiliation? Wow, that's incisive. Where is the scoop on the budget, I ask.

quandra - Sean's job is to expose things we aren't supposed to know and are not widely reported. If you want the "scoop on the budget," read Vaughn Palmer or Michael Smyth. Besides, if you read back a couple days, you'll notice that Sean broke a story on the budget before it was released, regarding a potential conflict of interest and including an interview with the finance minister.

Secondly, don't downplay the NDP's labour affiliation as an issue - this report has the potential to profoundly alter the landscape of BC politics.

good point to an amatuer matt,,,, nothing but internal bickering,, which should fester for awhile,,,without much damage, but great entertainment,,,the question is ,,who has more power????

nic

"If you want the 'scoop on the budget,' read Vaughn Palmer or Michael Smyth."

The funniest single comment I've read in a while. Cheers.


I think the point that is being missed, not only here but throughout much of the debate on affiliation, is that the NDP was originally formed as a partnership or federation. For instance, there were originally affiliates from the co-op movement and farm organizations as well as labour. That was the basis on which labour became a direct participant in the party.

The reason for this was that the union leaders and other builders of the New Party wanted to give it both the financial clout and enhanced access to the affiliates' members that might flow from a more direct relationship than was in place under the CCF.

Over time, the other affiliates back away. But the unions stayed. So for us, it remains a partnership, not just one more organization which we simply ask our members to join or support. Many union members become NDP members through involvement in their unions and they see their party involvement as part and parcel of their labour activities. They believe they have become members of labour's political party.

Unions are therefore still one of the main recruiting, information and ideology-disseminating and motivating vehicles available to the NDP. And many union workers frankly do not have the time or opportunity to take part in constituency associations. Most constituency organizations have their meetings on work-day evenings. That makes it difficult for shift workers or folks like the logging-truck drivers, loggers, etc. who get up and go to work at 3 a.m. or the growing number of people who work 10 or 12-hour shifts on a four-day rotation to take part. They still want to be involved in the NDP but it is unrealistic to expect them to participate at the constituency level, take it or leave it. Affiliation offers them that possibility.

At the same time, unions want affiliation so that they are not merely a "cash cow" from which the party can access funds without having in return some guarantees of labour involvement and participation in policy development and electoral strategy. We do not want an American-style system in which we bargain or even bid for the support or one party or another. We believe in the concept of a "people's party" which represents directly the interests of unionized workers in addition to its other members. That doesn't mean that we want to control the party -- 25% of delegates at conventions, coupled with OMOV for leadership selection, hardly constitutes control -- but it does mean that we want a significant role in its processes and activities.

All of this tells me that we need to rethink the current process before we create a severely-damaging and irreparable split. The party, as I have noted, is a partnership. If folks want to dissolve this partnership, they should perhaps do it some other way than via a split vote in a party committee in which the affiliated unions voted one way about their future in the party, unaffiliated unions or individuals voted another way. We should be clear, as well, that not one of the affiliated unions wants an end to affiliation. What we see here is effectively a rough, rude railroad job, not a reasonable meeting of minds on a matter of cardinal importance to the future of the party.

And to what end? My own analysis of recent BC Fed and NDP polling, for instance, indicates that there is little if any support for a change in the relationship between unions and the party among voters the NDP needs to win. The strongest support for the propostion that the party is "too close to unions" comes from the highest income-earners, unsurprisingly -- the folks least likely to vote NDP and most likely to vote Liberal. In other words, it's hard to understand what folks who want a change in the affiliation relationship actually hope to gain from it.

What we desperately need right now is someone to mediate this matter before we hurt the party irreparably. The caucus, which has been put in the uncomfortable situation of either harming their leader or harming the party, can't do it. Almost all the Table Officers and Executive have taken sides. We need some senior diplomats or elder statemen or women, therefore, to take both the affiliated union leaders, the leader of the unaffiliated BCGEU and the party leader aside and convince them how destructive this whole affair is to the party.

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