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NDP leader, Jack Layton, delivers his keynote speech to conclude the the New Democratic Party National Convention in Halifax, Sunday.

Tim Krochak

Factions within the federal NDP who want their party to drop the "New" from its name did not get the chance to debate the issue at the convention in Halifax this weekend.

The motion to begin consultations on a name change was listed seventh in a session devoted to party issues. But an omnibus motion related to redrafting the NDP constitution took up almost all of the hour that had been set aside for those matters.

Another motion from three riding associations, including Windsor West, that would have seen the name changed immediately was so far down the list of resolutions to be debated that it had no chance of being heard.

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Brian Masse, the New Democrat MP for Windsor West, said the members from his riding realized their motion was not going to get heard but they were hoping that the party would at least get the chance to debate a name-change consultation.

"I wish we would have had a full out discussion on it," said Mr. Masse, "but this issue has been raised so significantly the party is going to have to deal with it. So it doesn't just evaporate in this particular instance here."

Brad Lavigne, the national party director, said earlier in the weekend that the motion to begin name-change consultations was almost sure to make it to the convention floor where it could be debated by delegates.

It was placed high on the list of resolutions by delegates, an indication that it was a great interest, said Mr. Lavigne.

Some members had urged that the session be expedited by dispensing of the reading of long motions that were higher on the list. But that suggestion was rejected by out-going party president Anne McGrath who was acting as chair.

Younger delegates who support the name change argued that it is time that the party is modernized - and that calling itself New is inappropriate nearly 50 years after its inception.

But outside the convention hall, those opposing the name change handed out buttons that bore nothing but the letter "N", the letter that would be dropped if there was a name change.

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The party was originally to be called the New Party. The word Democratic was inserted by a motion from the floor of the inaugural convention in 1961.

The convention was billed as both a policy session and a training exercise for the next election.

Delegates were also asked whether they wanted to hold a convention to replace Jack Layton. In the end, 89.25 per cent said no, a strong endorsement of Mr. Layton's leadership.

He closed the conference with a speech that did not stray far from the messages he has been offering for the six and a half years he has been at the helm of his party - an address that was long on criticism of both the Conservatives and the Liberals and heavy on the promotion of expanded social policy.

"We will undo the legacy of neglect and inequality that the old thinking of the last three decades has left us," Mr. Layton told the crowd.

"We want to reduce taxes and red tape for small business so they can create jobs," he said.

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A resolution to phase out income-tax for small business was also on the convention agenda. But, like the name-change resolution, it did not make the cut and was not debated.

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