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NDP should review Leap Manifesto: former MP

Newly-elected NDP MP Craig Scott is applauded as he is presented to the House of Commons by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and MP Olivia Chow on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, March 29, 2012. .
Newly-elected NDP MP Craig Scott is applauded as he is presented to the House of Commons by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and MP Olivia Chow on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, March 29, 2012. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The Leap Manifesto, which is being embraced by more than a dozen NDP riding associations ahead of the party’s April convention, should serve as a reference point for future policy discussions, says former MP Craig Scott.

The manifesto is a good idea, but it would be unwise for the NDP to adopt it as policy without further debate, Scott said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The bottom line is, the Leap Manifesto is hugely welcome, but plopping it into our policy book in one big vote with no serious advance discussion and debate within the party … I don’t think is a recipe for renewal,” he said.

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“The democratic reform critic in me, as I was for three years, tells me that the process matters and that having much more ownership amongst the membership of a major … policy renewal is as important as what the policy itself is.”

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The Leap Manifesto — which has a wide range of supporters, including actors, labour unions and environmentalists — offers a number of recommendations, including a proposal to wean the country off fossil fuels to address climate change.

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As the NDP approaches its April convention in Edmonton the party’s federal council plans to prioritize hundreds of resolutions submitted by party riding associations and commissions.

Scott said he plans to promote a resolution that was adopted by his Toronto-Danforth riding association as the best path forward.

“Ours says ‘let’s take the Leap Manifesto as a really productive starting point and work it through in serious policy discussions with the grassroots for the next two years so it comes back for the 2018 convention more fully worked through with more party ownership, as in more ownership from the members’,” Scott said.

The NDP riding association in Vancouver East has proposed a similar vision backed by former MP Libby Davies.

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At the time of the manifesto’s release last September, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair did not endorse it, but he said he welcomed new ideas and understood it reflected a desire for change.

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“Canadians want change in Ottawa and I love the debates of ideas,” Mulcair said at the time. “We’re going to bring in overarching sustainable development legislation. We’ll see clear targets. We’ll start working with the world and stop working against the planet.”

Filmmaker Avi Lewis, one of the central figures behind the document, said Monday he is delighted to see interest in the proposal.

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“It always struck me just as someone who was born into the NDP culture that the values in the Leap Manifesto were certainly consistent and coherent from a social democratic point of view,” he said.

Lewis said he is not surprised to hear more debate will be needed, he added.

“I am really pleased,” he said. “I don’t think anybody, any political party, should be expected to take a manifesto that was written by a group outside of its borders, and adopt it wholesale as party policy.

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“I don’t think political parties work that way, but I do think it is smart for a political party that sees energy and momentum and genuine fresh ideas emerging … to take them up and really grapple with them.”

Several Leap Day activities were held Monday in parts of the country in support of the manifesto.

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