[Canada Politics] The Lewis family’s Leap project could prove discomfiting to the NDP – by Kelly McParland (National Post – April 14, 2016)


“The economic decline in Alberta and the rising unemployment its people
face should be addressed in ways other than implying that Alberta
resources are the enemy,” says Laxer. “The document suggests that most
new jobs will be created in a host of caregiving sectors. That may sound
good if you live in the Annex. But what does it say to miners in Sudbury,
steelworkers, autoworkers, workers in the energy sector in Alberta etc.?”

It was a bit odd watching Stephen Lewis deliver his barnburner of a speech to a hooting crowd of New Democrats in Edmonton on the weekend, lending his considerable prestige to the Leap manifesto.

The manifesto, he conceded, “is a radical document, of that there is no dispute.” Nonetheless, he urged it “become a centerpiece of constituency debate over the next couple of years.”

Why? Because “an intense exchange of views along with the issues raised in the manifesto can only be helpful. What kind of a party are we if we would run from an internal controversy when you seek a redefinition of who we are and where we are headed.”

It was odd because when Lewis was a younger man, leading the Ontario NDP in the early 1970s, he led the effort to purge the party of a similar attempt to introduce radical thought to a resistant NDP establishment. What Lewis is championing now looks an awful lot like the debate he did so much to avoid more than 40 years ago.

In 1972, as Ontario NDP leader, Lewis felt his party was in danger of being consumed by an internal faction with a radical agenda and a growing base of support. At the time, he told a recent interviewer, “I believed deeply that they were wrong. They were making pronouncements and statements and they were simply a self-centred group that had its own name and activists and membership cards.

“…It was intolerable. It was tearing the party apart.”

The radicals had been nicknamed the Waffle after a remark by Ed Broadbent*. Its manifesto was written by NDP members James Laxer, Mel Watkins and Gerald Caplan and urged establishment of an “independent socialist Canada” with broad public ownership. Only the NDP could achieve this, it argued, but first “it must be radicalized from within and it must be radicalized from without.”

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