Ed Broadbent, Former NDP Leader, Wants Party To Be 'Driver Of Political Debate'

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OTTAWA — The NDP needs to re-establish itself as the driver of debate in federal politics, former leader Ed Broadbent said Friday at a Progress Summit sponsored by his institute.

The Liberals turned left in the last election because popular support for the NDP was strong, but much of the inequality in Canada today is the direct result of the Liberal budget of 1995, Broadbent said.

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Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent delivers remarks ta the start of the Progress summit in Ottawa, Friday April 1, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

"It is for this reason that it is essential for the well-being of Canada that the NDP re-establish itself as the driver of political debate in federal politics," he said.

The NDP needs to root its activism in both bold, progressive ideas and in ways to improve its appeal to the broad majority, he added.

"Winning power and providing government based on principle should always be our goal," Broadbent said.

He conceded that the 2015 election results were disappointing for New Democrats, especially considering what seemed possible, but he emphasized that a strong majority of Canadians are progressive.

"Winning power and providing government based on principle should always be our goal."

"I know this in my bones," he said. "I know it from public survey data. They're there with us on the issues, whether social or economic. They're looking for a brighter future. And when social democrats present the best ideas as shown by (Alberta Premier) Rachel Notley, we can win."

Leadership review looms

Broadbent said the party is engaged in some necessary reflection as rank-and-file NDP members prepare to meet in Edmonton next week for the party's convention.

During the convention, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair will face a critical leadership vote to determine if he has enough support to keep his job.

NDP President Rebecca Blaikie has suggested 70 per cent is likely the threshold of support needed for Mulcair to stay on, though the party constitution only stipulates a leadership race must be held within one year if asked for by a convention vote of at least 50 per cent plus one.

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NDP leader Thomas Mulcair listens to former party leader Ed Broadbent deliver remarks at a summit in Ottawa, Friday April 1, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

Mulcair has been asked repeatedly what level of support he needs, but has refused to spell this out.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem also addressed the summit on Friday and she praised Prince Edward Island's decision to provide access to abortion by end of 2016.

"I'm glad to see you have just had another victory ... for safe and legal abortion," Steinem said.

"Together, we are moving towards the place where we will understand that reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right, like freedom of speech, like freedom of assembly, that the ability to control our bodies, women and men, from the skin in, is fundamental."

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