I’m sure by now, most of you know about Dion’s appointment of Saskatchewan NDP MLA Joan Beatty as a candidate for the federal Liberals, and I’ve got my snarky comments on the issue in.
However, I think that this appointment highlights the need to reform the rules of membership for the New Democratic Party.
At present, anybody who wants to join the NDP must join both the federal party and the provincial party of the province in which they live (except Quebec). Individual memberships are handled by the provincial parties (as per Article 3.1.2 of the NDP Constitution).
So what if one wants to join the federal NDP but not their provincial NDP? What if one wants to join the provincial NDP and not the federal NDP? Well, one is out of luck; they must join both parts of the NDP.
The requirement to join both parts of the NDP is based on one faulty assumption: that the federal and provincial scene are the same and that if one is inclined to one part of the party, they must be inclined to the other. However, real life is much more complex. Sometimes people support the NDP in one political scene and support another party altogether in a different scene, for many different reasons.
The current NDP membership rules take away one’s right to political self-determination in all Canadian political scenes by forcing one to join both sections of the party. This unnecessary removal of political self-determination seems wrong to me.
Away from the philosophical, the current NDP membership rules have many practical negative effects on the NDP.
One is that the shared provincial/federal membership lists could be made inaccurate for a portion of the party’s purposes. For instance, if the provincial section was using the list, if might have people on it who have no interest in the provincial party, just the federal. The same could be true the other way around. This leads to a waste of resources: a section of the NDP could be wasting scarce time and money sending information letters, donation appeals, appeals to volunteer, and other things, to people who are not interested.
Another negative effect is that a section of the NDP could be missing out on a lot of volunteers and money simply because the people who would provide these resources are willing to join one section of the party, but are unwilling to join the others. Let me use BC as an example. There are federal Liberals that support the BC NDP but do not support the federal NDP. Because they do not support the NDP federally, they cannot join provincially. If one can’t join, then why devote volunteer hours and money? If a federal Liberal wants to participate provincially in BC, the only real choice they have is the BC Liberals (which are more like Conservatives). So the BC NDP might not only be losing money and volunteers, but practically giving them away to the opposition!
So, the question is, how should the NDP membership rules be reformed? I propose creating a membership system in which one defaults as becoming a member of both parts of the party, but one has the ability to opt out of membership of a part of the party.
I think there is no question about it: the NDP has to change its membership rules somehow. Otherwise, we will continue to have negative media when a politician that supports one part of the party but not the other decides to switch political scenes (well, okay, Beatty has admitted that she did it because the Saskatchewan NDP is in opposition and the Federal Liberals might soon be not, but maybe other politicians might have better principles). Otherwise, we will continue to unnecessarily deny political self-determination for regular members. Otherwise we will continue to waste vital resources that we need to win.