They looked left, they looked right, but by the end of the federal NDP convention in Halifax the party decided to stay put.
A controversial motion to support marijuana legalization was pushed far enough down the agenda there was no time to debate it. Conversely, a centrist item on small business tax cuts met the same fate, as did the proposed NDP name change.
Motions approved included investing in renewable energy, giving more money to public transit and fighting violence against women – all highly applauded but hardly new to the party’s policy books.
But despite a lack of drastic moves, the gathering burst with self-assuredness – a feeling that voters will come to them.
“We talked about those who are quick to say it can’t be done,” NDP Leader Jack Layton said in his closing speech yesterday.
“My favourite these days: You’ll never get an NDP government elected in Nova Scotia. It can’t be done. Tell that to Premier Dexter.”
The focus this weekend was clearly on winning, something the federal party has yet to do. There was no noticeable move to the centre – as Nova Scotia NDP Premier Darrell Dexter did before his party won a majority government – but Layton said voters would be attracted to a new way of governing.
“We have both of the other parties traditionally in government advocating, essentially, a return to the old ways,” Layton told reporters as the convention ended at the Halifax Metro Centre.
“What you saw emerging from the ideas at this convention was a whole new way of thinking about the economy. I’m very excited about that.”
Layton himself got a vote of confidence from the party, with 89 per cent choosing to keep him in charge instead of calling a leadership convention. Former MP Peggy Nash was also elected the new party president.