Delegates for the federal left-of-centre New Democratic Party (NDP) are meeting in Montreal tomorrow for their annual convention.
One of the contentious issues to be discussed will be the removal of the term “socialist” from the party’s preamble.
The NDP should remove the term “democratic socialist” as modern social democratic parties the world over are abandoning some of the more doctrinaire aspects of socialism, such as government ownership of major industries, and massive wealth redistribution.
In this past February, the Economist highlighted how even the traditionally socially democratic Scandinavian countries are scaling back state spending, selling off state enterprises, and contracting out some services, as well as allowing choice.
A modern social democratic party can embrace a smaller government and citizen economic choice while remaining committed to egalitarian values.
To its credit, some of the proposed resolutions to be debated at the convention are modern-oriented, such as one calling for increased investment in digital infrastructure, as well as a resolution promoting entrepreneurship.
However, some old school doctrinaire thinking is also evident. Some calls for maintaining old-school supply management, the abolition of livestock factory farming, and the increasing the number of income tax brackets are all proposals that should be jettisoned.
Other proposals call for rejecting public-private partnerships. This is regressive as modern egalitarians are not afraid to use the private sector to deliver some public services, especially if the partnership is regulated and the service is provided better and cheaper.
If the NDP intends to promote itself as a truly modern social democratic party it should vote down proposals like one that calls for “Social ownership” of the banking, manufacturing, communications, health care, insurance, medications, natural resources, and mass transportation industries. Support for legislated ownership of industries and enforcing worker management of them would not improve the NDP’s image as a modern party.
Ditto for one policy calling for the phase-out of the Alberta “tar sands.”
Of course, many policies will be amended or voted down at this convention, but the NDP could make a statement to Canadians at this convention that they are modern, flexible, and more committed to markets.