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NDP policy convention takes party back to its leftist roots ahead of 2019 federal election

NDP delegates gather on the party convention floor in Ottawa on Feb. 16, 2018.


New Democrats spent Saturday crafting policy at a biennial convention that would better define the lines that exist between their party and the Liberals when ballots are cast in the next federal election.

With calls for paid sick leave, tax changes to promote the production of zero-emission vehicles, and the free access to menstrual products, the campaign ideas that have been handed to new Leader Jagmeet Singh would create a platform that is distinctly left of centre.

Mr. Singh addressed the convention on Saturday afternoon in a speech that lamented income inequality, urged the protection of pensions, called for publicly funded pharmacare and dental care, and said it is time to take on "a rigged tax system" that allows foreign internet companies to avoid paying their fair share.

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"Taxes are investments into building a fairer society for us all," he told the crowd in arguing for more public infrastructure and less privatization.

"There's so many areas where we know that if we had the courage to do more we could make people's lives better," said Mr. Singh.

A leadership vote, which is required at all NDP conventions, ended with 90.7 percent of delegates endorsing Mr. Singh.

A large number of the resolutions that were debated by the roughly 2,000 New Democrats who are in Ottawa for their policy convention were aimed at closing the gap between rich and poor, between privileged and underprivileged.

The delegates voted, for instance, to endorse a plan that would close the wage gap between men and women, to visibly support any groups that campaign against racial intolerance, and for eliminating the need to indicate gender on identification documents.

There were also a significant number or resolutions aimed at clamping down on carbon emitters. And the New Democrats called for a federal ban on racially-motivated carding and street checks by the RCMP, a policy that has been a repeated theme in speeches by Mr. Singh.

Rank and file New Democrats are still smarting from the 2015 election when, they believe, the party led by then-leader Thomas Mulcair moved too far to the centre and was out-lefted by the Liberals, who ultimately won government without promising to balance budgets like the NDP did.

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In 2019, they have indicated with their resolutions this weekend, they want to run on a left leaning platform, taking credit for social changes like the $15-minimum wage that have been promised in by NDP governments in Alberta and British Columbia and mimicked by the provincial Liberals in Ontario.

"The future Canadians want is undeniably progressive," former leader Ed Broadbent told the crowd. "Canadians don't want a smaller, more ineffectual government. They want a government that is more effective, more caring and bolder - one that gets things done."

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