I’ve been asked to write today’s column because the New Democrats are in Halifax this weekend, and I have plenty of experience covering New Democrats.
You’re just starting your NDP adventure here in Nova Scotia, but I’ve been following them around since an ancestor of Avi Lewis ran the party. (His name, for those of you who like to play Trivial Pursuit, the Extra Trivial Edition, was David.)
I covered the NDP governments of Ed Schreyer and Howard Pawley in Manitoba, and Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark in B.C. I even had lunch with Jack Layton at my favourite Szechuan restaurant in Vancouver, where we discussed biofuels and the green beans, in that order, I think.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing new about them.
Which is why, I guess, they’re seriously toying with dropping “New” from their name. It could even happen this weekend, making Halifax even more historic than it already is.
That would make it the Democratic Party, and who do they think they’re fooling? I’ve met Jack Layton and he’s no Barack Obama.
Have they forgotten the last time a political party tried to change its name? At one stage during the excruciating marriage of the hayseed Reform Party to the moribund Progressive Conservatives, we had the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party -- or CCRAP -- prompting Jean Chrétien to quip that they came up with a name “we cannot pronounce in front of the kids.” Such a card, that petit gars.
Whatever they’re called, the New Democrats are stuck: Stuck in the past, stuck with the union movement, stuck at between 10 and 20 per cent in the polls, stuck in English Canada, and stuck in a brown funk, as opposed to the Green party, which at least is named after something cool and European.
But now, fuelled by optimism that comes with holding their national convention in their new stronghold of Nova Scotia (you get tired of holding conventions in Winnipeg, especially in the winter), almost getting into government via the back door of a coalition with the Liberals, and the perpetual promise of B.C. NDP Leader Carole James, the federal party is trying to take politics seriously.
As far as I can tell, that means fewer wing nut resolutions from the floor issued by socialist gentlemen with unruly beards stamping their Birkenstocks for emphasis...and a name change.
I, for one, am going to miss the wing nuts. But as for the name change, I advise against it. If you want extra pizzazz, you put “new” into your name, you don’t take it out. After all, it still works for “Nova” Scotia after all these years.
Paul Sullivan writes the weekly West View column for Metro Canada.