Saturday, May 8, 2010

NDP Constitutional Confusion

Let's say that in a fit of pique over the childish behaviour of both the Conservative Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Canada, you decide that you want to join the NDP. I stumbled on this last week when I was helping Helena Guergis find a replacement Party. You search Google, head to their website and look around on their home page for the "join button". There it is on the right side near the top - "Join Team Layton.

Click on "Join Team Layton and this is where you'll go. It's a lovely secure webpage so you don't need to worry about entering your personal data. As you scroll down the page, this is what you find:

When you reach Step 3, you're told that you can't belong to another federal or provincial party yada yada yada and tell Mr. Layton that you promise to abide by the Constitution et al of the NDP both provincially and federally. Hmmm, interesting. You don't recall seeing any NDP Constitution so you start flipping through the pages on their website. Nothing about any party Constitution but a ton of stuff about what they'd like to see happen to Canada, the party platform and even some pretty NDP logos that you can use should you choose to download them.

Since I couldn't find anything about an NDP Constitution on their website, I went back to Google and tried searching. This is what I got. Nada, zippo, sweet dick all. It's not anywhere on the internet! Even when you go into Google several pages, there's nothing.

I tried Altavista and Bing too with the same results. There's a Youth United website with the Constitution of the New Democratic Youth of Canada but nothing else about the national NDP Constitution.

So I went through the Wikipedia page at the bottom of the Wikipedia NDP entry and got all excited when I found a link to the NDP Constitution pdf file. Here it is:

Crap! I did manage to find a couple of historical links to the NDP Constitution and this is what came up:

Double crap.

It seems kind of strange to me. The NDP people seem to be so forthright and voter oriented. I searched for the Constitution (you know, the one Helena should have read) of the Conservative Party of Canada and found it here. The Liberal Party of Canada's Constitution is here. Both are lovely pdf files that you can download and print off to hand out to all of your friends for Christmas or other special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries (if you never want them to speak to you again!). The Green Party of Canada even has its Constitution on line embedded right into their website here. Sure, it's not in pdf form but I won't hold that against them. Just to be a bit of a trouble-maker, I even Googled the Communist Party of Canada to see if they had a copy of their Constitution online and, low and behold, here it is!

Not to be beaten, I started in on the provincial wings of the NDP. I thought I'd start with Nova Scotia since the NDP have actually formed the government there. Lo and behold, here it is. Next up was Ontario (in memory of the Bob Rae NDP government of the early 1990s) and again, here is the Constitution for the New Democratic Party of Ontario. The last one I tried was Saskatchewan and here's the Constitution for the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party.

In reading through these provincial constitutions (until I feel asleep at my keyboard), I saw no specific reference to nomination of federal candidates but they do mention nominating candidates for both general or by-elections. As well, I realize that when you join the national NDP, you are by default joining the provincial wings as well. It is surprising when you look through the nomination sections of the provincial constitutions, how vastly they differ.

I thought I'd look at the Constitutions for all of the provincial wings of the NDP and what they want from prospective members just in case I join the NDP and decide to move to another province.

Ontario NDP Constitution Article 6 Nomination Meetings (2007):

6.07 (1) The candidate selected at a nomination meeting must be endorsed by the Provincial Council before he/she becomes the Party’s official candidate.

Quite obviously, the Provincial Council must approve a candidate if you want to run in Ontario. As well, in Ontario, you have to agree to abide by the NDP Constitution before they let you become a member.

Saskatchewan NDP Constitution Article 10 Candidates (2002):

10.1 Any individual member may place the name of a prospective federal or provincial candidate in nomination prior to the Nomination Convention of a Constituency Association by forwarding the name, in writing, with the written consent of the nominee, to the Constituency Secretary.

10.2 The Constituency Secretary shall prepare a list of all names placed in nomination prior to the mailing of the Convention Call, and notify, or arrange to notify all individual members of such names. This section does not inhibit the right of the Nominating Convention to elect a candidate whose nomination was not previously submitted.

10.3 No person shall be eligible to seek or accept nomination unless: (a) they are a member in good standing of the Party; and (b) they are eligible to be a candidate as defined by the Saskatchewan Elections Act

or the Canada Elections Act as the case may be.

10.4 Rules 5 (b), (c), (d) and (e) of Appendix B attached hereto shall also apply to Nominating Conventions.

10.5 No candidate nor any Constituency Association shall change either the provincial or federal program of the Party.

10.6 On request of the executive of a constituency association, the Provincial Executive may authorize a Nominating Convention at more than one site.

The Saskatchewan NDP Constitution says nothing (that I can find) about the refusal of any candidate for nomination. In Saskatchewan, you don't have to agree to abide by anything at all if you wish to become a member of the NDP.

Nova Scotia NDP Constitution Part XI Nominating Meetings (amendment 2007):

(6) Nomination of a candidate is subject to the approval of the Leader and if a candidate is not approved, the Constituency has a right to appeal the approval to the Executive.

In Nova Scotia, the Leader of the Nova Scotia NDP (I assume) can approve or disapprove of a candidate's nomination. In Nova Scotia, you don't have to agree to anything if you want to join the NDP!

British Columbia NDP Constitution Article IX Public Office (2007):

9.04 All persons proposed as candidates of the Party for public office shall be only those members who have been in good standing in the Party for at least 90 days prior to a Nominating Convention, and shall obtain acceptance from the Provincial Executive.

In British Columbia, the NDP Provincial Executive must accept a nominee for public office. In British Columbia, you have to agree to abide by the Constitutions of the NDP of BC and Canada. At least in this case, you can read the provincial NDP Constitution before you sign up.

Newfoundland and Labrador NDP Constitution Article 7 Nomination of Candidates for Provincial Election

Section 6: All nominations of candidates to represent the Association in a provincial election shall by subject to approval of the Provincial Executive.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial NDP reserves the right to approve candidates for provincial elections but it says nothing in Article 8 about approving candidates for federal elections. Does Jack Layton take care of the candidates he doesn't like? In Newfoundland and Labrador, if you want to join the NDP, you only have to agree to abide by the principles of the party, it says nothing about agreeing to the NDP Constitution.

The New Brunswick NDP website has no reference to their Constitution, nor do you have to click on a box to indicate that you will abide by one. Their website takes you to a PayPal site where you make a contribution to join.

The Manitoba NDP website has no reference to their Constitution but when you want to join, you have to agree to abide by the Constitution and principles of the association whatever they may be.

The Alberta NDP website also has no reference to their Constitution and when you download the membership pdf application form, it says nothing about a Constitution either.

The Prince Edward Island NDP website, as well, has no reference to their Constitution and you simply agree to abide by the principles of the New Democratic Party when you sign up.

The Quebec section of the NDP has the same boilerplate NDP member declaration as the national NDP where you have to agree to abide by the Constitution of both the federal and provincial NDP, in fact, it is exactly the same page with the word Quebec stuck in near the top.

I find it most interesting that the national NDP require adherence to both the national and provincial Constitutions of the Party when Canadians apply for membership, yet, the only Constitutions that I can find are under the jurisdiction of some of the provincial NDP associations. When these Constitutions are available online, they vary greatly in focus and most importantly in the procedure for selection of candidates for elections. As well, about half of the provincial NDP associations do not require that prospective members agree to abide by any Party Constitution when they sign up.

If any one out there can explain this to me, I'd appreciate the assistance. It just seems strange to me that if you want to join the national NDP and you are required to agree to abide by their Constitution, it should be available online so you can read it before you click on the little box. The fact that provincially, the Constitutions of the NDP vary greatly (or also aren't available readily) confuses the issue further. Personally, I would find it difficult to agree to sign up for something I don't understand fully or can't access.


  1. I had the same problem about 2 weeks ago. However I had a moan about the issue of joining etc

    The web page you linked to -- -- has now completely changed

  2. uhhh... they do post their