• May 19, 2021

Avi Lewis: You mean this is not how you kill the NDP?

There’s something in the expert’s life that doesn’t mind a fight, so when I heard that Avi Lewis (kids: ask your parents!) Will be running for the NDP in the upcoming federal election, I called Anne McGrath.

I suppose I could have called Avi Lewis, but (to) Campbell Clark in the Balloon I already did that and (b) as expected, Avi Lewis thinks that Avi Lewis’s entry into electoral politics is a great idea. What Anne McGrath thinks about it, I can only guess. So I had to ask.

McGrath is the national director of the NDP and is, to some extent, the living repository of the party’s memory of what it felt like to be on a hot streak. She was, with Brad Lavigne and Jamey Heath and Brian Topp and a few others, part of the small group that worked with Jack Layton during that first terribly disappointing election of 2004, and then the slightly less disappointing election of 2006, and the only slightly disappointing election. most encouraging of 2008. Finally, McGrath and Layton and most of the others enjoyed what they all called the astonishing overnight success of the 2011 “Orange Wave” election, in which the federal party won an unprecedented victory and, to say the least, from incomparable: 103 seats.

But I wanted to ask you about Lewis for what came next: McGrath played a key role in Rachel Notley’s 2015 Alberta Provincial NDP victory. Also unprecedented, also unmatched. McGrath was still Notley’s deputy chief of staff in 2016, when the federal NDP met in Edmonton for a national convention.

Two important things happened at that convention. One, the national leader, Tom Mulcair, faced a leadership review vote from party members, and damn if he didn’t completely lose it. Two, a group of left-wing activists, many of them not particularly affiliated with the NDP, came forward to discuss their vision for a future Canada, the so-called Leap Manifesto. The manifesto had been presented by its proponents during the 2015 election. Mulcair had received it in the same way that his vegan cousin would receive a gift of leg of lamb, except the analogy doesn’t really work because there is no way Mulcair was vegan. In this stage. After the NDP lost seats and votes in that election, the Leapers were ready to try again in the 2016 campaign.

Proponents of the Leap manifesto call it, in a website that still works six years later, “A call for a Canada based on caring for the Earth and others.” You are right: Sounds like socialism. When delegates to the Edmonton convention voted to debate the manifesto, at the riding level, for the next two years, Maclean’s I took it well. Here was our next cover:

I’m telling you, it never stops being a fun place to work. The “two eco-activists” in the photo are author Naomi Klein and her husband, Avi Lewis. He wrote a few noteworthy books, including the world bestseller Without logo. His father is a former leader of the Ontario NDP. Surely this was some kind of coup.

Lewis patiently explained that he had no intention of hitting. (“I was not really committed to the leadership question and, like everyone else, I was stunned by the result.”) And again, a few months later. Were you interested in being a candidate? “In the least.”

The central schism in Edmonton was between the Notley provincial NDP, which was trying to sell oil to pay for the rest of its schedule, and the Leapers, who wrote that “there was no longer any excuse to build new infrastructure projects that lock us in a increase extraction decades in the future. ”That meant there were no new pipelines.

Grumpy exchanges followed. Notley called the Leapers naive, ill-considered and deaf. Two years later, Lewis tweeted that the Notley government was “relentlessly hostile” to Leap because he had been “completely captured by the oil industry.”

So what about Anne McGrath, who’s working full-time on a national campaign whose West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast candidate, Sea to Sky, is half of that half-decade slanging match?

Are you comfortable speaking officially, I asked? “Sure,” she said. A refreshing, old-fashioned answer. There were really strong divisions over Leap, he said. “The NDP [provincial] the government was working very hard to get a better price for the resources. I think recognizing that a transition [i.e. a long-term global transition away from fossil fuels] it has to happen, but also that while there are still oil and gas resources, they are at least paid a fair price. And we were hampered by lack of market access. “

So what about Lewis’s candidacy? “I would say there is much more that unites us, I mean, it’s a truism, but it’s because it’s true, there’s so much more that unites us than divides us,” McGrath said. “But people have different approaches on how to deal with natural resources. And I think there has to be a way to deal with the transition that doesn’t leave all those energy workers behind, and that’s real. And that actually speaks to how we transition to more renewables, more clean technology, all that kind of thing. And I’ve had conversations with Avi about that and he’s very much on that. “

I felt like McGrath was making an effort to put the ideas into words that hadn’t yet been carefully tucked into the talking points. “It seems there is still tension there,” I said. “At least a conceptual tension.”

“Yes,” he said easily. “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. “Again, refreshingly old-fashioned. And a little disorienting. I mean, I work in Justin Trudeau’s Ottawa. I’m not used to people acknowledging conflict.

“One of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot, in fact, in the last few years is how we reconcile some of the differences that we have,” McGrath said. “It has always been the case, I have also spoken with Rachel about this, that there are some regional differences in the country.” He mentioned the constitutional debates of the 1990s and uranium in Saskatchewan: How can you be anti-nuclear in a place with uranium mines? Sometimes the NDP found, you can not.

One way to handle a potentially troublesome candidate, I suggested, is to let him run in a race the NDP has never won. Of course McGrath didn’t believe it. “It is deeply rooted in that community. That is the path I wanted to run on. And by looking at his activism in recent years, you can see how important place is in his politics. He is very committed to that leadership and I think he is committed for the long term. “

The other thing that has happened, and it is important to recognize this, is that the center of gravity in some of these debates has changed markedly. The line in Leap that got Notley going was this idea that there should be no new natural resource infrastructure. Well, the Notley government, and then Jason Kenney’s, have continued to work hard to ignore that edict, and pipeline later pipeline keep running towards almost surreal levels of practical difficulty. And on Tuesday, the head of the International Energy Agency made headlines around the world calling for an immediate halt to new oil and gas projects if the world wants to have any hope of meeting net zero emissions targets by 2050.

Rereading Leap, in fact, one finds very little that today’s Trudeau Liberal cabinet ministers would not even blink, if instructed to send extract after extract on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

I mean: “We want a universal program to build energy-efficient homes and modernize existing housing, ensuring that lower-income communities and neighborhoods benefit first … Renewable energy-powered high-speed rail and affordable public transportation can unite all the communities in this country. “Insert random flag emojis and tweets practically write themselves.

Finding Leap a little from trop It is no longer a realistic option for the NDP: this is a time when electoral and ideological imperatives converge, or at least idealistic ones. The NDP has lost seats to Trudeau’s Liberals two elections in a row, first because it ran to Mulcair’s left and then because it was able to persuade Jagmeet Singh’s targeted voters that they couldn’t risk handing over power to the Conservatives by accident. He will certainly repeat that pitch next time. The legions of Twitter warning of a CPC-NDP media complex to ruin Canada’s only hope of escaping the abyss, the liberals, will do the same.

The NDP’s rebuttal will be that Trudeau is, at best, an unstable steward of his supposed values. Lewis and Martin Lukacs, co-author of Leap I have been rehearsing this rebuttal for years, especially in Lukacs’s sharp and underrated book. Trudeau’s formula. This corner does not offer any predictions of your success or the NDP. It’s not even easy to find videos of the cable TV talk show Lewis used to host anymore. Probably few Canadians under the age of 60 have a clear idea of ​​who he is. But the urge to get closer to him, rather than letting old divisions fester, is probably healthy.

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