What Happened in Halifax
I missed the Globe and Mail letters on Thursday (because Jack Mintzâ€™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 â€œsmall businessâ€ profits:
Yes, there was a vote
I read with interest your editorial The Tax-Cutting Left? (Aug. 18) on the New Democratic Partyâ€™s plans to cut small-business taxes and red tape. Indeed, at last weekendâ€™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 partyâ€™s national council.
Bruce Hyer, MP, Thunder Bay-Superior North
Of course, â€œplenaryâ€ 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 â€œpanel,â€ the smaller group of delegates who convene before convention to prioritize resolutions within particular categories. I was in that panel and can report that Hyerâ€™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 panelâ€™s initial portion was devoted to ranking the resolutions in order of priority. Had delegates really wanted to adopt theÂ phase-out of â€œsmall businessâ€ tax as party policy, they could have voted to raise this resolutionâ€™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 â€“ A description of the NDPâ€™s resolutions process is available on the party website (PDF).