Editor-in-Chief Juliana Hayden-Nygren in conversation with Presidents of NDP McGill Cole Eisen and Malaya Powers on PM Trudeau, the NDP’s image, and mobilizing youth.
Juliana: What would you consider to be the effects of having a youthful and popular PM on the interest of youth voters on the NDP, a party that has traditionally found support among younger voters.
Cole: One could say that the self-styled Minister of Youth got quite the reality check back in October at the CLC Youth Summit where young workers from across the country demanded he treat them as more than a photo opportunity and uphold his campaign promises. Young workers want jobs not platitudes, and young Canadians demand real progressive change, not a Harper-lite administration. We’d all be pressed to find a friend who hasn’t endured some form of precarious work, either in the form of an internship or under a string of short-term contracts, just think back to Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s smug suggestion that young people should get used to “job churn.” To us that Morneau’s comment reveals just how out of touch the government is with our concerns. The Liberal campaign clearly did invigorate young voters but with each round of policy delays, shady pipeline approvals and arrogant remarks, the picture of Justin Trudeau gets a little more spotted.
Malaya: Our ability to engage young voters and cultivate young activists is predicated upon our ability to maintain the genuine grassroots culture that has existed within the NDP since it was established. Through consultation and respectful dialogue, the Canada we seek to build must provide good jobs for young workers, while also reflecting our positions on the environment and social policy. Rather than being a prop in a public relations strategy, young voices are respected and encouraged within our party. A vibrant collective of campus clubs and youth wings was loud and influential at our last national convention in demanding an unabashedly left-wing NDP, and we plan to continue this work in the coming leadership race.
Juliana: Amidst a leadership crisis, has the NDP had to rethink its image?
Malaya: We think the coming months are going to prove very exciting for any Canadian with a progressive bent as the leadership race heats up. The CCF and NDP have always served as a big-tent under which workers, students, environmentalists and farmers unite in our desire to build a more just and equitable society. The race is going to see voices from these various sections offer bold visions outlining how we can work towards this Canada of our dreams and topple the neoliberal consensus that has governed this country over the past decades.
Cole: One thing we try to do when talking to colleagues on campus is emphasize our party’s long history and the successes we’ve had – at both the provincial and federal level – in implementing many of the programs and policies we as Canadians take so much pride in. From Tommy Douglas’s work in developing Medicare to the Notley government making Alberta the first jurisdiction in Canada to enact a living wage, social democrats continue to play a foundational role in building our society. Remembering this both grounds our organizing today, and offers a foundation upon which we continue to fight for a better Canada. We’re confident we will see a diverse, exciting field of candidates who reflect the best of our movement enter the race and look forward to organizing with other young New Democrats throughout the process to ensure our voices are heard.
What one sees coming out of the Conservative leadership race is extremely troubling and it’s more important than ever to have a strong, uncompromising set of voices advocating for a diverse and loving society that respects both new Canadians and those peoples who first called this land home. New Democrats have always stood against division, intolerance and hate, and will continue to do so as vulgar, Trump-like discourse creeps into our national discussion. Believe it or not, several local Conservative youth groups, including the party’s chapter here at McGill, hosted an event dedicated to leadership candidate Kellie Leitch last week. We hope her self-serving and cynical view of working-people in Canada is soundly rejected by Conservative members at their upcoming leadership convention, and intend to continue fiercely opposing right-wing extremism on campus and in Canadian politics more broadly.
Juliana: What would the NDP consider to be the most critical issues that mobilize youth voters? What are the most effective tools in securing youth participation in the party?
Malaya: We’re particularly excited about Niki Ashton’s efforts to identify the factors contributing to the crisis of precarious work we face in this country and believe she’s created a powerful framework within which we can organize. Uniting disparate narratives from across the country has helped create a collective picture the degradation of working conditions over the past decade and how a myriad of legal and economic factors hinder our generation’s economic and social prospects. By probing deeper on issues that affect those whose concerns are often overlooked, New Democrats have always worked to improve life for the most vulnerable.
Cole: Conceptualizing young workers in precarious conditions as a collectivity, Niki’s offered us a powerful tool to organize against the race-to-the-bottom dynamic years of anti-worker policies have fostered and sharpen our demands for change. It’s this ability to probe deeply into issues overlooked by the mainstream parties and engage in genuine dialogue with those affected that will allow us to continue to build our movement and offer a distinct, principled platform outside the Liberal-Conservative consensus in the next federal election.
The MJPS also sat down with Liberal and Conservative McGill. Read more to see their responses..