Monday, September 14, 2009

The Conclusion of a Not-So Thrilling Saga?

A couple hundred NDP faithful are still nursing Convention hangovers today.

Some highlights and lowlights:

There has been more than enough twitter talk and blogging about the DRP - though we'll add our two cents to one aspect of the argument later, and a few humorous reflections. The standing vote count was 123 to 27 - against. We'd be curious to see any actual proof of this 300+ number that Finkel (and now, apparently, the media) has been bandying about. The Alberta Report sure haven't seen any evidence of this.

Matt Hebb from Nova Scotia delivered an important and concise message for moderation, organization, and taking advantage of opportunities when they manifest. He provided some real one-liner gems - "hug a liberal," "reach out to the NDP-curious," and the Newhart-esque "it's hard to grow when you're shrinking." Unfortunate that only 150 or so delegates were in attendance, for this was perhaps the highlight of the weekend.

Paul Moist from CUPE National provided a fiery and eloquent message for delegates about working with organized labour - something some delegates had a difficult time stomaching at last year's convention in Calgary. Rumours abounded that the Electrical Worker delegation would try to stymie the anti-nuclear policy proposals from the Peace Country (they supported the resolution) or generally be anti-environment (they weren't).

Rebecca Blaikie (son of Bill Blaikie, former Quebec section director, aide to Manitoba's Minister of Labour) was okay - her message contained a disproportionate amount of the banal - nothing new, and her familiar, informal speaking style (though quite warm in smaller quarters) made it difficult for her to capture the attention of delegates.

A steady stream of observers and guests participated in the convention, with at least one blogger, a photo-blogger, a number of tweets - and guests from the Alberta Teachers, AUPE, the Multicultural Coalition, and representatives from the city's Kurdish, Somalian, Lebanese, Romanian, and other ethnic communities (multicultural guests were given free admittance, along with citizen media folks). On another note, pot activist and banned federal delegate Dana Larsen was allowed to attend, to zero controversy, just like every other year.

The twitter conversation is still ongoing, we might add.

Saturday night's dinner honouring Brian Mason's 20 years of service featured a motley collection of current and past political figures, including: Calgary Councillor Bob Hawkesworth, Edmonton Councillors Tony Caterina and Amarjeet Sohi, former councillor Michael Phair, former MLAs Jim Gurnett (Spirit River-Fairview), Derek Fox (Vegreville), Alex McEachern (Edmonton Kingsway), and possibly others that we missed. Jack Layton's anecdotes were a highlight, and the performance of MC (and Mason's EA) Michelle Jackson was honest and endearing.

The schism that characterized last year's convention in Calgary seems to be over, with new Party President Nancy Furlong of the Alberta Federation of labour promising to utilize her skills as a facilitator to mend the breaches - but with the notable absence of Electrical Worker and Insulator delegates from the convention floor, one wonders if new fights are forthcoming. The election of Gil McGowan as the General VP for Edmonton over rank-and-file labour delegate Jason Rockwell was rumoured to be by the smallest of margins - 2 or 3 votes - meaning "Brother" Gil still has a long way to go in terms of overcoming his significant staff relations problems at the Fed, and his dalliance with Alberta's Liberal Party over the past two years.

A New Executive round-up:

Table Officers:
President - AFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Furlong.
Treasurer - Linda Duncan campaign manager, Amnesty International activist, and Duncan "Minister of Everything" Erica Bullwinkle.
1st Vice-President - Electrical Workers Organizer and Business Agent Al Brown
2nd Vice-President - Past Party President, former Communications Executive of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, and staffer for the Centre for Civic Governance, Steve Bradshaw.

General Executive:
Edmonton: AFL President Gil McGowan - teacher and Edmonton Beverly-Clareview President Peggy Wright.

Calgary: Electrical Workers Organizer, Calgary Glenmore Candidate, World Skills volunteer Eric Carpendale - CUPE Local 1669 President and former Canadian Labour Congress rep Rh'ena Oake.

Central: Seniors' Action Liaison Team (SALT) organizer and board member Carol Wodak of Sherwood Park - Ironworker activist Len Legault of Provost.

North: Former Alberta Liberal Caucus outreach worker and National Farmers' Union activist Mandy Melnyk of Dunvegan-Central Peace - City of Grande Prairie councillor, Grande Prairie Regional College Instructor, and recently published author Elroy Diemert (defeated carpenter Ken Kuzminski of Jasper).

South: University professor, federal candidate Mark Sandilands of Lethbridge - criminal lawyer, past candidate, Anne Wilson of Banff.

Lastly, Alberta's NDP Conventions have been steadily changing over the past few years. A rising group of youth have been taking charge, and taking important positions in the party. It's readily apparent that party and leg staffing has been provided by a core of 20 and 30-somethings for some time - but the changing demographics of participation in the party proper, particularly from core constituencies such as Edm. Strathcona, Beverly-Clareview, Highlands-Norwood, Dunvegan-Central Peace and the Peace Country in general, as well as from the downtown ridings one would expect such as Edmonton Centre and Calgary Centre/Centre North, bodes well for New Democrats. One blogger commented in passing on twitter that their weren't "as many grey hairs" as one would expect. These also aren't the typical University activist core, but rather the young professionals - lawyers, teachers, nurses, computer techs, technical writers, communications people, small businesspeople, accountants, Ironworkers, and other tradespeople - that the party needs in order to grow beyond its current third-party status.

And judging from the pessimism and negativity of some of the party's older delegates, that's a damn good thing.


Oh - and Mason's mustache was back. But we REALLY did not doctor that photo.


1 Response to "The Conclusion of a Not-So Thrilling Saga?"
  1. Anonymous said...
    September 15, 2009 at 9:38:00 a.m. MDT

    I still don't get why the IBEW wasn't there.

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