What Happened in Halifax

I missed the Globe and Mail letters on Thursday (because Jack Mintz’s op-ed prompted me to instead read The National Post that day.) Among them was the following letter from Bruce Hyer, the key advocate of not taxing “small business” profits:

Yes, there was a vote

I read with interest your editorial The Tax-Cutting Left? (Aug. 18) on the New Democratic Party’s plans to cut small-business taxes and red tape. Indeed, at last weekend’s NDP convention in Halifax, I was heartened to see so much support to do just that. But your editorial said my resolution to reduce the federal small-business tax rate to zero was neither debated nor voted on. It was, in plenary session, and it passed its vote by delegates. But time ran out before it could pass a final vote the next day and has been referred to our party’s national council.

Bruce Hyer, MP, Thunder Bay-Superior North

Of course, “plenary” refers to the full convention, where the resolution did not come up for debate. Had the resolution been passed in plenary, it would now be party policy.

In fact, the resolution (narrowly) passed in its “panel,” the smaller group of delegates who convene before convention to prioritize resolutions within particular categories. I was in that panel and can report that Hyer’s resolution came up only a couple of minutes before the panel ended at noon, by which point many delegates had already left for their lunchtime caucuses.

There was barely any time for debate and I was one of several delegates left standing at the microphones. The initial show of voting cards was too close to call, so the chair asked for a second vote before declaring the resolution passed and adjourning.

I have no objection to this rushed process given that panels should indeed try to get through as many resolutions as possible before lunch. But it is totally inaccurate to characterize this outcome as convention endorsing the resolution.

The panel’s initial portion was devoted to ranking the resolutions in order of priority. Had delegates really wanted to adopt the phase-out of “small business” tax as party policy, they could have voted to raise this resolution’s priority so that it would have reached convention floor. Doing so would have ensured adequate time to debate this important issue, both in panel and in plenary.

New Democrats deserve some genuine deliberation before being railroaded into promising to give $6 billion annually to profitable business owners.

PS – A description of the NDP’s resolutions process is available on the party website (PDF).


  • The media seemed to have very little idea how NDP conventions operate these days and didn’t seem to realize that the panels on Friday morning is where policy gets decided and the rest of the convention just approves them. This year only one resolution was voted down in the plenary. Last time I don’t think any where.

    Isn’t it the media’s job to know these things?

    Because it was approved at the panel the small business tax cut will go to council for approval. There are signs it has support of the NDP leadership, so it is going to take some effort to stop it.

  • Why not post Duncan Cameron’s recent article:

    New Democratic economics
    By Duncan Cameron | September 1, 2009


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