An Open Letter from New Democrats Who Have Won Through Cooperation
Today, we are formally endorsing Nathan Cullen for leader of the NDP. His positions on the environment, employment and social justice make him the candidate who best reflects our values; and his wit and humour as a campaigner make him the person best able to fill Jack Layton’s shoes in bringing a positive, upbeat, yet hard-hitting message to Canadians.
Some unimaginative New Democrats have assailed Nathan’s proposal for a united front against Stephen Harper as unworkable or dangerous. Today, we are coming forward to remind New Democrats that fielding joint slates of candidates is a proud tradition in our party that dates back to Mike Harcourt’s election as mayor of Vancouver in 1980. Mike forged a two-party alliance that ran a joint slate, comprising New Democrats, Liberals and Communists, resulting in the first-ever election of an NDP mayor and progressive majority on Vancouver City Council. The New Democrats who created that alliance showed voters a way of doing politics differently, through cooperation, and were given their first-ever mandate to govern the city as a result.
For more than a generation since that day, New Democrats in Vancouver and Victoria have won office and formed government by cooperating. Formally endorsed by the BC NDP under Mike’s leadership in 1986 and reaffirmed by Glen Clark in 1999, cooperation has been part of the winning formula for BC New Democrats. In the BC legislature and Canadian parliament, the NDP’s front bench is populated by people who got their start being elected as part of two- and three- party electoral alliances, just like the one Nathan is advocating at the national level. Our fellow New Democrats, Libby Davies and Denise Savoie, for instance, got their start that way and are just two of the dozens of BC NDP politicians who won elections because they cooperated with other parties.
We are proud that Nathan is taking the ideas that have won for us in BC and showing how they can work at the national level, how we can gain support by cooperating without merging, by demonstrating that solidarity arises from recognizing our diversity. Nathan’s plan is anything but untested – it has a proven thirty-two-year track record of success.
This is not just an academic point. If progressives do not learn to cooperate in the face of a government that will lie and cheat to win power, all Canadians will suffer. Every Canadian deserves an opposition leader with the maturity to put the good of the country before all else. We know Nathan is that person.
For an NDP government in 2015,
Art Vanden Berg
For further information contact:
Sadie Kuehn, former NDP School Trustee 604-266-5414 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Vanden Berg, former NDP City Councilor 604-716-0515 / email@example.com
Roslyn Cassells, former Independent Parks Commissioner 819-700-1953 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuart Parker, author of 1999 NDP-Green agreement 801-599-8049 / email@example.com
Sadie Kuehn, a New Democrat for half a century, served as president of the Committee of Progressive Electors in 1986 when the party entered a formal alliance with the newly-formed Civic NDP and negotiated with fellow progressives to field a cooperative two-party slate. Elected to the Vancouver School Board as part of its first-ever progressive sweep in 1985, Sadie played a crucial role in advocating for teachers and students attacked by a far-right provincial government. As one of the first black women elected to civic office in BC, she understands that cooperative politics that respect diversity are the cornerstone of any strategy that seeks to represent Canada’s diverse communities.
Art Vanden Berg, originally elected as a Green Party representative in the 1999 Victoria civic election, crossed to sit as a NDP councillor, joining Rob Fleming and Denise Savoie in 2001 when the BC Green Party repudiated its 1999 agreement to cooperate with New Democrats at the municipal level. A small business owner and proud New Democrat for more than a decade, Art is an example of how cooperation does not just help our party win election but wins over new supporters from other progressive groups.
Stuart Parker, authored and negotiated with 1999 Red-Green alliances that put New Democrats back on Vancouver City Council after a three-year absence, tripled NDP representation on Victoria City Council and resulted in the first-ever election of candidates under the Green Party banner in Canadian history. Active politically since 1986, when he worked as a volunteer supporting Sadie and other progressives, Stuart has been a member of the NDP since 2001 and is author of the academic study “the Logistics of Cooperation” on Nathan’s proposal for progressive primaries.
Roslyn Cassells was elected to the Vancouver Parks Board as part of Vancouver’s Red-Green alliance in 1999, where she worked with progressives to champion such causes as accessible recreation, Stanley Park’s free bus and the Coexisting with Coyotes initiative. After leaving electoral politics in 2002, she became the political adviser for BC Vets for Justice in their long-running human rights case against the BC Veterinary Medical Association’s discrimination against South Asian veterinarians. A long-time campaigner for no-kill animal shelters, her most recent successful campaign was against the University of Victoria’s plans to kill thousands of campus rabbits and resulted in the largest rabbit rescue in Canadian history in 2010.