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The Leap Manifesto: What is it, and what could it mean for the NDP’s future?

As the New Democratic Party debate how to move forward in a post-Mulcair future, one proposal is calling for a dramatic shift to the left and a harder opposition to the use of fossil fuels. Here’s what the Leap Manifesto proposes, who’s behind it and what might happen next

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair makes a speech during the 2016 party convention in Edmonton April 10, 2016.

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair makes a speech during the 2016 party convention in Edmonton April 10, 2016.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

WHAT IS IT?

The Leap Manifesto is a document that calls for a radical restructuring of the economy as Canada swiftly moves toward ending the use of fossil fuels. It was released last September in the midst of the federal election campaign. (An abridged version of the Leap supporters’ Toronto declaration appeared in The Globe and Mail on Sept. 15.)

The time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer suffice. So we need to leap.

Sept. 15, 2015, declaration of the Leap Manifesto



WHOSE IDEA IS IT?

The manifesto was crafted by bestselling author Naomi Klein and her husband, documentary filmmaker Avi Lewis.

Will this 'latte-swilling' Toronto power couple save or doom the NDP? Erin Anderssen and Eric Andrew-Gee look at what makes Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis tick. (for subscribers)
Avi Lewis: Sorry, pundits of Canada. The Leap will bring us together The Leap Manifesto reflects a common vision from across a spectrum of different causes, its co-author argues.

Mr. Lewis is also the son of former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis. That has made for some interesting comparisons between Leap and a movement the elder Mr. Lewis opposed in the 1970s: the “Waffle,” an NDP faction whose Manifesto for an Independent Socialist Canada proposed to steer the federal New Democrats in a more far-left direction.

Stephen Lewis speaks at the NDP’s Edmonton convention on April 9, 2016.

Stephen Lewis speaks at the NDP’s Edmonton convention on April 9, 2016.

CODIE MCLACHLAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS


WHY DID THEY DO IT?

The Leap Manifesto was released during a campaign when NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was touting his party as a moderate, pragmatic alternative to the Conservatives, promising to balance the federal budget, to hike no taxes other than a “slight and graduated” increase in the corporate tax rate, to sustainably develop Alberta’s oil sands and to be open to free trade deals. It was a cautious agenda that was soundly rejected on Oct. 19, with the NDP finishing a distant third.

Critics have accused Mr. Mulcair’s NDP of straying into the political centre and letting the Liberals outflank them on the left. Leap proposes to shift the party even further left to gain a possible advantage in the next election.


WHAT DOES IT SAY?

The manifesto’s proposals include:

  • Shifting swiftly away from fossil fuels so that Canada gets 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources within 20 years and is entirely weaned off fossil fuels by 2050.
  • No new infrastructure projects aimed at increasing extraction of non-renewable resources, including pipelines.
  • “Energy democracy,” in which energy sources are collectively controlled by communities instead of “profit-gouging” private companies.
  • An end to all trade deals “that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.”
  • Expand low-carbon sectors of the economy, such as caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media.
  • Vigorous debate on the idea of introducing a universal guaranteed minimum income.
  • Declaring that “austerity – which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and health care while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations – is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.”
  • Paying for it all by ending fossil fuel subsidies, imposing financial transaction taxes, increasing resource royalties, hiking taxes on corporations and the wealthy, introducing a progressive carbon tax, and cutting military spending.

WHO OPPOSES IT?

The Leap Manifesto didn’t go over so well at the party’s Edmonton convention with Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley, who said the party should support pipelines linking Alberta’s oil with Canada’s coasts. In a speech on April 9, she warned New Democrats to not be tempted by “slogans and dreams” after their election loss: “That is just a form of giving up,” she said. “New Democrats never give up.” Her Environment Minister, Shannon Phillips, also called the document “ungenerous” and “short-sighted.”

NDP plan to debate Leap Manifesto draws regional divide over energy There will be no easy fixes as fault lines are torn open in the now leaderless NDP over a debate about the future of Canada’s energy industry that is pitting east against west, moderates against left-wingers and workers against climate activists, Justin Giovannetti and Daniel Leblanc report.

Rachel Notley targets supporters of Leap Manifesto

0:33



WHAT HAPPENED IN EDMONTON?

Leap supporters came to the party convention hoping to pass a resolution declaring the manifesto to be “a high-level statement of principles that is in line with the aspirations, history and values of the party,” setting the stage for a debate on how to implement the manifesto at the 2018 policy convention.

The delegates approved a watered-down version of the resolution that stipulates that specific policies advocated in the manifesto “can and should be debated and modified on their own merits and according to the needs of various communities and all parts of Canada.”


The convention also delivered a fatal blow to Mr. Mulcair’s leadership, where he secured only 48 per cent support in a leadership vote.



WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Mr. Mulcair has said he will remain as party leader until New Democrats decide on a successor, but the party has decided to leave up to two years for a new leader to be chosen. The party’s federal council is meeting in May to discuss next steps for a leadership race.


With reports from Justin Giovannetti, Laura Stone and Evan Annett

Editor’s note: An earlier digital version of this story incorrectly said Avi Lewis is the head of the Toronto-Danforth riding association. The head of that association is in fact Janet Solberg. This version has been corrected.


MORE READING

With Mulcair out as NDP leader, here’s what’s next for the party New Democrats may have to wait two years before they decide who will lead them into the next election, Laura Stone reports.
After Mulcair's defeat, here are five potential NDP leadership candidates Justin Giovannetti looks at the field of possible contenders, from Avi Lewis to Megan Leslie.
Lawrence Martin: NDP’s Leap is the Waffle reborn The Leap Manifesto would put the party in a zone on the political spectrum that has never sniffed power. The NDP should know better; they almost tried that once before.


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