Skip to main content

NDP delegates show a banner that reads “put democracy and socialism back in the NDP” during the 2016 NDP Federal Convention in Edmonton, April 10, 2016.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley used her pulpit as one of the most prominent New Democrats in the country to condemn the federal party's plan to debate over the next two years a far-reaching document known as the Leap Manifesto that would ban all future pipelines.

"The Government of Alberta repudiates the sections of that document that address energy infrastructure," Ms. Notley told reporters in Edmonton on Monday. "These ideas will never form any part of policy. They are naive. They are ill informed. They are tone deaf."

Story continues below advertisement

Delegates at the party's federal convention adopted a motion on Sunday to debate the manifesto in each of the NDP's constituency associations by 2018. Tom Mulcair's rejection as leader several hours later ensured that the deep ideological divides within the party will now be a central feature of a leadership contest that could also run for two years.

Leaders across Alberta from trade unions to the province's right-wing Official Opposition were quick to voice their discontent with the manifesto – the fact that the vote took place only blocks away from the Alberta Legislature was seen as further proof of the wide gulf between the western delegates and those from Quebec and Ontario.

Facing calls for Alberta's provincial NDP to break away from the federal party, Ms. Notley ruled out a split. "Some parts of the party like to chat," she said of the NDP's move to discuss the contentious plan.

The entire party will now be debating a manifesto that would aim to move the country off fossil fuels by 2050. While the document also deals with wider social issues, the contentious sections target the oil and gas industry that's key to Alberta's finances.

Ms. Notley vowed that her province's New Democrats will mount a defence of their industry. "Those people that have that little document in front of them very possibly could have some other documents put in front of them not too long from now," she said.

In Ottawa, members of the federal NDP caucus made a clear effort to distance themselves from the Leap Manifesto on Monday, stating the document raised important issues but insisting the party is not bound to enact its more controversial policies.

"The NDP did not adopt the Leap Manifesto," B.C. NDP MP Don Davies told reporters, adding the party is simply acting responsibly. "Is it a surprise in Canadian politics that we have to discuss energy and pipelines and the environment and climate change?"

Story continues below advertisement

Former NDP MP Malcolm Allen, who lost to his Liberal rival in Niagara Centre in last year's election, said the party's challenge at this point is to convince Canadians that the NDP is the voice of progressive Canadians – and not of a more radical fringe.

"I'm not sure we made one great 'leap' to the left," he said in an interview. "We actually are a progressive party, and we need to do a job communicating that. … As we go forward, we don't need to reinvent ourselves, but re-explore the things that we have."

After emerging divided over the weekend, many New Democrats feel their collective priority is to clearly differentiate themselves from the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau.

University research shows that in last year's election, a majority of Canadians felt there were only "minor differences," if any, between the NDP and the Liberal Party. On Oct. 19, Mr. Trudeau's party won a majority government, while the NDP finished a disappointing third.

"The mantle of being progressive has been stolen from the NDP by the Liberals, and that is a hard truth to face up to," said David McGrane, a professor of political science at the University of Saskatchewan and a member of the NDP. "In this campaign, the message that Canadians sent is that they see there are two left-of-centre parties in Canada, and that is a hard, hard lesson for the NDP to learn."

Prof. McGrane, who is studying last year's election results and the future of the NDP, has commissioned a poll that found a majority of voters in both English and French Canada felt that the two parties offered similar agendas for the country. Faced with this situation, he said voters opted for "Mr. Trudeau, who spoke with urgency and passion."

Story continues below advertisement

The NDP's decision on Sunday to oust Mr. Mulcair launched a series of questions about the future of the NDP, but also of Canada's left-wing and progressive movements. Within the next two years, New Democrats will have to pick a new leader, but also decide how they think they can form the next government.

"While we're going to work to stand up for working families and hold the government to account; we'll also have reflections about where we go as a movement, looking forward to the 2019 election," said NDP MP Peter Julian, who led off for his party during Question Period on Monday in the absence of Mr. Mulcair.

Mr. Mulcair is expected to be back in the House later in the week. It remains a topic of debate whether he will stay on as leader until his successor is chosen, or whether another MP will take over as interim leader.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter