Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Niki Ashton releases left economic justice statement and the 'Colonel' (seriously) joins the fray - NDP leadership update

The NDP leadership race has been in an extended period of doldrums, town halls and generally being ignored as it has a long way to go, but a couple of interesting developments have occurred of late -- and no I am not talking about the impending entry of All-Star Jagmeet Singh (more on this at the end).

Niki Ashton's Economic Statement

Niki Ashton picked up a significant endorsement when Sid Ryan -- who had been courted as a leadership candidate by some on the left of the party -- announced that he would not run and threw his support behind her.

Having already been endorsed by Cheri Di Novo -- who had a short-lived leadership campaign on a leftist platform that she had to end due to health concerns -- Ashton now has the backing of two of the party's more prominent and important left-wingers.

In a highly symbolic move Ryan and Di Novo went with her to Bay St. on May 8th to announce Ashton's economic justice platform. The fact that it is the first platform statement she has released shows that she is placing great emphasis on it and on the idea of economic equality in framing her bid.

While not detailed (which is not that big an issue given that it is a policy framework) it outlines five planks that Ashton sees as central:

  1. A national good jobs – stable jobs program, as part of a vision for full employment that creates full-time stable – not precarious – jobs, with a Canada First national investment strategy, ending corporate giveaways with public investments and stopping companies like Bombardier from paying huge bonuses with taxpayers money, restrict CPP foreign investments. Specific measures to end gendered, Indigenous, racialized, disabled and LGBTQ+ unemployment.
  2. Fair income for all Canadians including a living income policy and tax reform, ensuring that  corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share, including a tax on millionaire and billionaire income and estate wealth transfers and a crackdown on tax cheats.
  3. Curb corporate power including rejecting unfair, job killing trade deals and trade actions and standing up against those that would target Canadian jobs like Donald Trump. Tougher restrictions on foreign takeovers, corporate concentration and stronger competition legislation to give Canadian consumers a break.
  4. Public and social ownership and investment, including a public sector post office bank, pharmaceutical drugs distribution agency and green initiatives and energy agency.
  5. Tuition free post-secondary education and action to deal with crippling student debts.

There are some very positive ideas there and she goes on to say "It’s time for politics that put the interests of the poor, the working class and the struggling and shrinking middle class ahead of the interests of the rich and powerful."

There is little doubt that Ashton is positioning herself as the Sanders/Corbyn of the contest, and, while it is still fair to ask why these beliefs (unlike theirs) remained largely hidden or muted during her prior leadership bid and during her years as a loyal MP under Layton/Mulcair, she is at least hitting the all the right left notes now.

It could be that Ashton will be for many the socialist hope to bring the party back towards something resembling its roots.

The Colonel comes to town

Pat Stogran.

Hard to believe that his campaign for the NDP leadership is not a form of self-parody. Even harder to believe that some commentators are actually taking it seriously.

I suppose there are those in the NDP who think a former military man who seemingly hates the Liberals and Conservatives and who eschews traditional ideology would be perfect to push forward their centrist agenda that desperately seeks what they see as legitimacy by earning praise from traditional opponents.

In Stogran's case they should be careful what they wish for.

"The Colonel"'s (this is how he actually refers to joke...) "Who is Pat Stogran" page for his NDP leadership campaign provides some somewhat troubling insight into what he is all about.

With highlights like "The Colonel spends his free time reading, writing, and speaking about leadership, a discipline he likes to refer to as Leaderology."...and "The Colonel lives in Ottawa with his wife, has two adult children, and his "fire team partner" Apollo (a Chocolate Lab)", Stogran comes off as akin to that annoying uncle who has lots of incoherent ideas that we all like to avoid at family dinner parties.

It only gets worse when one reads his Facebook post on May 1st. This is worth quoting in full:
Hey folks! Our campaign is going hell-bent-for-leather! There is no doubt in my mind that we are going ALL THE WAY, but it is going to take a grassroots movement that embraces all pragmatic Canadians, regardless of what their personal political preferences might be, to come on board with the card-carrying members of the New Democratic Party to make our democracy truly representative of the People of Canada.
That said, there are all sorts of old-and-bold supporters of the NDP as well as the two Parties that constitute Politics Inc. who continue to quiz me on the nuances of my recent kinship with the Party. Let me ask everyone this! Do you want me to parrot whatever is on the top of your wish list of how to fix Canada, or are you trying to see what kind of leader I am? The two are very different.
If it is the former, there are other candidates who believe that leadership consists of hopping on the biggest bandwagon and hoping that it wins the day. I dismiss that as what I call "first follower-ship," so I would ask you to address such questions to Erin O'Toole or one of the other First Followers masquerading as a leader in our government.
If it is the latter, I would request that you quiz me about my interpretation of true "leadership" or TELL me what you think is the biggest threat to our quality of life as Canadians. Mind-reading and groupthink are not leadership qualities. I entered this race to break the cycle of selfishness and corruption in government and put the NDP on the map as a real contender to form government.
As an aspiring LEADER I am VERY INTERESTED to hear what you think are the biggest threats to our Canadian way of life so that I might be able to prioritize how we fix this broken institution we call government. I ask you to trust my ability as a LEADER to triage all of the crises we are facing thanks to the selfish First-Followers, who have perverted our democracy to satisfy their personal ambitions, and to take a course of action that will serve the greater good of what we all thought we stood for as proud, stalwart Canadians.
I encourage you to Google my history to see my credentials as a leader.
Thanks! P@
As should be clear to anyone who is able to read, it is not just Liberals and Conservatives that Stogran regards as "Politics Inc", he also seems to include "old-and-bold supporters of the NDP". Presumably, thus, all those who have actually been New Democrats for any length of time!

It is a unique approach to try to win the leadership of a party by insulting its most stalwart members.

He then proceeds to rant about his "idea" of "first follower-ship" -- which for some unknown reason he identifies with Conservative nobody Erin O'Toole -- and contrasts it to his "ability as a LEADER to triage all of the crises we are facing thanks to the selfish First-Followers" at which point anyone still thinking he should be considered as the person to person the helm of an allegedly social democratic party -- or anything for that matter -- needs to really reexamine their basic premises.

While Stogran is likely to make the upcoming NDP leadership debates entertaining, if he were to actually "go all the way" and win the contest the NDP might as well turn out the lights as the party would be over.

Jagmeet Singh

Yes, he is running.

Yes, he is likely to be the immediate front-runner.

What will he base his campaign around? We will find out next week.

See also: NDP's second debate a more lively affair with stronger performances

See also: Sid Ryan hits all the right leftist notes in a powerful video that leaves us asking why he is not running

Over the coming weeks The Left Chapter is interested in getting different perspectives on the NDP leadership race including from those both inside and outside of the party, from partisans of various candidates (perhaps explaining why), from critics of the race or those who think supporting any of them is perhaps a mistake, from those who would like to see a candidate who has yet to emerge, analysis of the candidates from an objective left perspective, etc.

If you have perspectives about the NDP leadership race specifically that you would like to share in blog/article/editorial form please contact us via


  1. My attachment to the NDP started gloriously when I was part of a canvas brigade in Nanaimo BC in 1968 to get Tommy Douglas back into Parliament. We did it, and I worked for my party for many years afterwards. That ended when the NDP seemingly abandoned its commitment to the poor and disadvantaged in favour of protecting the middle class. This was when the working class members of the party were replaced by teachers and lawyers, whose watered down ideals of socialism became so much like the mainstream parties.

    I'm watching this race eagerly, and while I wanted to see Sid Ryan run, I am hopeful that Nikki Ashton will carry the day. If we have any hope of becoming real socialists again Nikki appears to be the one to do it.

    Keep up the writing on this campaign, I for one, appreciate it very much and trust the credentials of Mr. Laxer to relay developments for so many of us who just need to see real change at the top to get back onboard.