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Divided New Democrats gathering in Ottawa looking ahead to 2019

Divided New Democrats gathering in Ottawa looking ahead to 2019
From CBC - February 14, 2018

New Democrats from across the country will begin gathering in the national capital on Thursday, hoping to lay the groundwork for victory in next year's federal electionand to confront deep divisions and challenges within their party.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh kicked off the festivities a few days early by laying out Tuesday what he wants to see in the Trudeau government's federal budget, which will be unveiled Feb. 27.

The demands include a universal pharmacare program, more money for affordable housing, an end to boil-water advisories on First Nations and more protections for workers' pensions when companies go bankrupt.

Singh has distanced himself from Tom Mulcair's commitment that an NDP government would stick to a balanced budget, saying as recently as last week that he opposes "austerity" and supports stimulus funding when required.

But the NDP leader indicated Tuesday that the costs of the pharmacare program, at least, could be covered if the Liberals close a controversial tax loophole for stock options, which critics say benefits the wealthy, and crack down on tax havens.

"The government has shown that it just does not get it when it comes to what workers are going through," Singh said. "While they have said a lot of fancy words on addressing inequality, they have not yet produced the results that people need now."

The NDP had sponsored an opposition motion echoing their leader's demands for action on the so-called stock-option deduction and tax havens in the budget, but the Liberals voted it down.

Possible 2019 platform

On the surface, Singh's demands look like the foundation of a possible NDP platform for the 2019 election. They also bear a striking resemblance to some of the policy proposals that New Democrats will debate at their convention this weekend.

The list of policy proposals, released Tuesday, includes a heavy emphasis on Indigenous rights as well as pharmacare, environmental sustainability, more support for refugees, the decriminalization of all drugs, and free university tuition.

Yet the list also includes potential landmines that could deepen the already sharp divisions over pipelines and natural resources, symbolized, in part, by the feud between Alberta and British Columbia over the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Among the more explosive policy proposals is one, sponsored by 12 riding associations, that explicitly opposes the pipeline. Another calls for widespread protests against pipelines and fracking.

Neither Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose government supports Trans Mountain, nor B.C. Premier John Horgan, who opposes it, will attend the convention, even though they lead the only two NDP governments in the country.

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