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At Federal Convention, And Beyond, Let's Move Our Party Forward

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NDP 2015
Mathieu Belanger / Reuters
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Much has been written on the topic of a post-mortem of our 2015 NDP campaign. That's not my intention in writing this; rather, I want to share how we might move on and build an even stronger party through the choices we make now at our Federal Convention this weekend, and in the longer term heading into 2019. As a candidate who dedicated two years of my life to a very hard-fought campaign in the riding of Edmonton Griesbach, I hope that my words merit consideration.

It's not enough to say that we'll aim to do better heading into 2019. We need to map out a clear plan that ensures we'll be better. I'm struggling to maintain hope, but like any good New Democrat, it's still there, and it won't die easily. Like many Canadians, I was quite galvanized by the message of love, hope, and optimism put forth by Jack. This, however, was a narrative that was lacking in 2015. Instead of clearly articulating who we are as a party, we focused on who we were not, and too often, this meant attacking Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

I think we can agree that Canada is a better country today than it was prior to October 19, 2015. Yet, there are many things for which we must continue to fight if we are to truly improve the lives of all Canadians. Despite government promises, there are many issues still unresolved, especially from the perspective of people in our riding. Take, for instance, the number of First Nations children who remain in care or the continued inadequate investments in social housing.

We will not see real progress on these issues and many more without a strong, genuinely progressive New Democratic Party. Despite our lack of success in the last federal election, millions of Canadians continue to endorse the values of social democracy that define our party, and view the NDP as their natural home. But, some of them sent their support elsewhere on October 19th. They need to see now that the home we offer is a safe and secure one; one in which their vote is worth investing in 2019.

We can, moving forward, outline a clear vision of who we are, what we stand for, and what we can truly offer to Canadians.

There's an opportunity this weekend in Edmonton at the convention to implement improvements to our home. The tireless efforts of many party activists over the years have built a solid foundation, albeit one that was shaken in 2015. It was shaken, but it wasn't destroyed. It would be easy to throw some paint on the walls and hope for the best in 2019, but what will be harder is asking the tough questions and engaging in a thorough inspection of the structural elements of our home.

We can, moving forward, outline a clear vision of who we are, what we stand for, and what we can truly offer to Canadians. I don't want to hear for the next few years about what a poor job Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are doing. I want to know how we -- New Democrats -- will do better and I want these plans grounded in evidence-based policy reflective of our values. And I want for our members to chart the course of our party, not for what might be popular at the time or what might gain support in the short-term to guide our decisions.

As party members, we can build the type of change we want by attending our party convention, and by vocalizing our positions on policy matters. But what happens when convention itself doesn't seem to reflect the type of change our party needs? The original agenda posted lacked respect for racial and regional diversity. If our party is too "white", then we need to address that by welcoming people to an accessible convention with speakers and panelists who reflect the true diversity of Canada.

If we don't make positive changes now, we run the risk of losing the shared knowledge and strengths of our candidates and their teams.

My team and I gave it our all. We raised tens of thousands of dollars, knocked on every door in our Edmonton Griesbach riding, significantly increased our membership, and welcomed hundreds and hundreds of new volunteers. Ultimately, we received the second highest number of NDP votes in Alberta, but it wasn't enough.

If we don't make positive changes now, we run the risk of losing the shared knowledge and strengths of our candidates and their teams. I truly believe that there are Alberta NDP campaigns that could win in 2019. In many ridings here, the chances are that much better if the same candidates run again, but we risk losing these folks if they are not reached out to and if they don't feel valued.

Naturally, I experienced significant disappointments in working so hard and in losing. This truly isn't about me, though, but it is about the relationships that our party wishes to forge moving forward. I want the best for the party in which I've invested so much, and it honestly hurts when I see decisions being made that serve to hold us back rather than advance us. I want those who have given so much to feel that they are respected, and valued.

Consider, for example, 2015 Edmonton Manning candidate Aaron Paquette. Aaron is frankly incredible. A renowned Indigenous artist, an inspiring activist, a best-selling author, the list goes on. Ultimately, Aaron is a genuinely amazing individual who the NDP needs. But Aaron, like me, is frustrated. I don't want us to lose the Aarons of the NDP. Unless the party addresses diversity and the exceptional work of candidates like Aaron, we will lose the very people who could serve to strengthen us. And that would be a shame.

In offering my thoughts, I do so in the hope that we are a party that welcomes criticism rather than rejecting it. We need to have confidence in a leader and a party that values principled stances and values members, like me, who speak their minds and articulate their dreams and desires for the party.

With love, hope, and optimism,

Janis

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