Thursday, February 26, 2009

A primer on the resolutions process

The annual pre-convention exercise of making fun of NDP resolutions has begun (see the
Globe, Free Press and Rise and Sprawl). The exercise typically involves digging through the hundreds of resolutions submitted by grassroots NDP members to find those that can be most portrayed as "kooky," usually with the end result of right-wingers everywhere nodding and patting themselves on the back for being such sensible folks in comparison to those crazy Dippers.

Sure, there are and always will be ideas presented that are ill-informed and unrealistic, but that's simply part of grassroots democracy. After all, resolutions can be drafted by any party member and make it into the convention book if they're passed at any one of the constituency, committee or affiliated organization meetings. Some of those meetings might only have three or four voting members in attendance, so it's relatively easy for any member to draft a resolution, have it end up in the convention book and presumably be mocked in the local and national media.

Any party that genuinely accepts and debates resolutions from a diverse membership across regions far and wide will end up with a grab-bag of ideas, some good and some bad. And it's not like the bad ones automatically become party doctrine. In the NDP, a policy committee reviews and prioritizes all resolutions ahead of the convention to bring those most relevant and well-thought out to the fore. Convention delegates then have an opportunity to change the prioritization before they debate and vote on the resolutions. Those passed become party policy, but not necessarily government policy.

It may be fun to sift through hundreds of ideas just to laugh at the three or four that seem most far-fetched, but in the mix will also be some policy winners. I wonder if, in mocking the outcome of a system that lets ordinary people participate in policy development, the critics would feel more comfortable shutting out the grassroots and leaving all of the idea-generation to elites.

UPDATE: See the Globe's snidely-toned March 2 editorial here and Endless Spin's take here.

Photo: This year's NDP convention will be held at Brandon's Keystone Centre.

1 comment:

Fat Arse said...

While the quality of proposed resolutions reflects where the party's head it at - you're right, this one ranks pretty low on the scale of things to get all hot & bothered about. If we get a flag - fine- if we don't - that's fine too.

The real import of the convention is, at the end of the day, that whatever resolutions the NDP adopt should reflect a desire on its part (Gary's part?) to move past its current 'safety zone' and into a realm of inspired governance.

One can only hope.