Opening remarks (Libby Davies)
The above picture is from the welcome speech by Libby Davies, MP for Vancouver East (pictured at the podium). There was certainly nobody better suited to pump up a crowd of bleary-eyed travelers first thing on a Saturday morning than Libby. Her infectious enthusiasm won the crowd over early and soon enough the room was electric with optimism as Libby rattled off the great accomplishments the party has made in the past twelve months and the idea that we were now a part of the team that was going to continue getting results in the next Parliament. It was going to be a great weekend.
Protecting and Enhancing Canadian Culture Panel
[left to right: Dorothy Henault (filmmaker), Jo-anne Dousel
(Candidate for Palliser SK), James Missen (Canadian Conference of the Arts)]
The First Day was broken up into three policy discussion breakouts, each with three forums to choose from. The first Breakout was under the theme of "Strengthening Canada". For my forum I chose to attend "Protecting and Enhancing Canadian Culture". The panel covered a very broad range of topics relating to the Arts and artists' role in this country.
Some topics discussed:
- Artists need to be recognised as workers in this country. A great many artists are self-employed, live well below the poverty line and have little to nothing in terms of economic security. There was discussion about ways to improve the working conditions of most artists such as coverage under EI and tax reform relating to professional artist's equipment and supplies.
- The need for the party to develop a more concrete cultural policy within our platform
- The need for a stronger CBC, both in regards to regional coverage and fostering and supporting Canadian talent.
- The difficulties facing Canadian film, especially in regards to getting cinema play as well as securing the financing necessary.
As you can imagine, each of these topics took on a much larger life of their own as the panel progressed (and even afterwards: I sought out Dorothy Henault later in the day to talk further about making regionalism work in terms of both the CBC and the television and film industry in general).
The next session was on "Building the 21st Century Economy" and was kicked off by Paul Summervile (candidate for St. Paul's ON). Paul is an economist and former analyst for RBC Dominion. He gave a fascinating speech (read it here) on the marriage of Prosperity and Social Justice, outlining how the NDP's policies will lead to a better economy and more just society (and how the two goals are not mutually exclusive, but in fact linked). Paul is one of several economists (such as Fundy Royal candidate Rob Moir) who have joined our party, recognising that our fiscal policy is not only sound, but superior to the other parties. It's fair to say the public perception has never favoured us in terms of our economic ability, often portraying us as fiscally irresponsible or even more dangerous. That's a myth that we intend to dispel in the public arena, with people like Paul leading the way.
Building the 21st Century Economy: Post-Secondary Education and Training
[left to right: Nathan Cullen (MP Skeena-Bulkey Valley), Pat Martin
(MP Winnipeg Centre), unknown forum attendee and Kelly Bickford (Candidate Red Deer)]
My chosen panel for the second forum was "Post-Secondary Education and Training" (Not surprisingly, the most popular choice) . The panel was quite lively and a lot of it focused on workshopping ideas for improving access to education and articulating what our clear "30 second" message should be when discussing eductaion.
Pat Martin also gave a facinating talk on Trades Training and the vital role it plays in our society. He stressed how Canada has fallen behind the rest of the world in regards to the number of Apprenticeship programs it offers and he also talked about the social stigma that we have to work hard to reverse when dealing with skilled trades people (he told a humorous story about how when he was a Journeyman carpenter and rode the bus to work he's get sneered at by some kid in a business suit. PAt was clearing 45K in his trade while the kid was a junior clerk, barely making 20).
The final seesion of the day was entitled "Moving Canda Forward" and was kicked-off with probably the most anticipated event of the day, a speech from Ed Broadbent. Ed, as usual, didn't dissapoint. He laid out his seven point paln to bring ethics back into Canadian politics. It was a firey speech, bursting with brilliant ideas for reform that is so desperately needed. You can read the text of it in the link below:
Cities and Communities
[left to right: Nette Wiebe (Candidate Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar), David Christopherson (MP Hamilton Centre) and Denis Bevington (Candidate Western Arctic)]
Teh final panel I attended for the day was "Cities and Communities", where perspectives were given from three different Canadian "Communites", starting with Nette Wiebe who discussed rural challenges for the party, followed by David Christopherson who discussed how party policy affected municipalities and finally Denis Bevington filled us all in on the problems facing Northern communities.
As a side note, I seemed to bump into Denis everywhere I went all weekend. He's a really great guy who works so hard for his riding and has such a huge geographical area to conquer that it's truly staggering. He missed being elected by fewer than 200 votes last time. This time he's sure to go over the top and become our first Northern MP. Go Denis!