Right in the centre - Some things don't add up


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

The New Democratic Party of Manitoba will choose a leader on March 8. It might be the current leader, Greg Selinger, or it could be one of the challengers, Steve Ashton or Theresa Oswald. The NDP choose their leaders by a delegate convention system. Delegates are chosen in a number of ways and they all gather at a central location to vote. This year, the delegates in certain constituencies will be allowed to vote with a mail-in ballot.

In contrast, most political parties use a one member-one vote system which would appear to be more democratic. The delegate system works and has been used at times by all parties and is still in place in the NDP.

Election of new leaders, or in this case, the possible re-affirming of an existing leader, is a bit touchy inasmuch as the winner becomes the premier immediately. The voting public likes to choose their premier at a general election and Manitoba’s general election isn’t scheduled until the spring of 2016. The NDP have been in power since 1999 and even the NDP are getting tired of themselves, hence there was a revolt and a triggered leadership election.

The NDP select their delegates in a strange way. They allocate a huge number of delegates to the unions. That is simply not done in other parties. In addition to about one third of the delegates being selected by the unions, the NDP follows a similar pattern to other parties. Sitting MLAs and MPs are delegates, as are constituency presidents and a designated number of delegates per constituency. Most parties have a set number per constituency, usually 10, but the NDP have a number based on the number of members. That way, a constituency can have five or they can have 100 or more depending on how many members they have enrolled.

The NDP roots go back to at least 1932 with the formation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Farmer-Labour-Socialist). Believe it or not, that was the original name, later shortened to Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and then simply to CCF. In the early 1960s, the party joined up with the Canadian Labour Congress to form the New Democratic Party.

By examining the NDP history, it’s easy to see how married it is to the labour movement, to the unions. Ironically, if the Conservative or Liberal parties were to attach themselves as closely to the Canadian  Taxpayers Federation or  the Canadian Federation of Independent Business or the Frontier Centre, there would be a huge outcry. Isn’t it strange that the unions control at least one third of the NDP?

Recently, the United Food and Commercial workers, (UFCW) announced they are backing Greg Selinger  for leader of the NDP. I guess the unions have to choose who they will officially back but fortunately the members who are selected as delegates don’t have to vote the way  the union says, it is a secret ballot and supposedly, the unions are letting members vote as they please.

There’s another irony at play here in Manitoba and that is how can the UFCW support the NDP at all. The UFCW represents the hog plant workers at Hylife and at Maple Leaf. The NDP have done just about everything they can to knock down the pork industry. The hog barn ban has made it almost impossible to build a new hog barn. The new regulations have closed many smaller hog barns. The Hylife plant has enough hogs but Maple Leaf plant has to cut back hours due to a hog shortage. The UFCW should do the math and convince the NDP to allow construction of hog barns in the many places where a hog barn can be safely built. That makes a lot of sense.

That’s just the point, when it comes to politics, sometimes things just don’t make sense.