This political moment is full of promise for a progressive vision to take hold in Canada and around the world. We are poised on the brink of a new kind of globalization. International institutions are being confronted not only by the needs of financial capital, but also by the centrality of human rights and environmental concerns. People increasingly see themselves as citizens of the globe, and are demanding rights of citizenship in this new public space.
These exciting and challenging times are creating change in institutions of all kinds. Many of the central ideas of the left, right and centre are being re-examined. Along the entire breadth of the political spectrum, people are rethinking the role of the nation state.
Such a context begs for a strong, bold political party on the left in Canada – most critically at the federal level – but it also demands renewal of that voice. Change entails risk. It can create disarray, or it can present an opportunity to galvanize a relevant political alternative, firmly rooted in progressive traditions and shaped by new realities.
The lessons of the history of left-wing activism in Canada, based in part on the aspirations of workers’ struggles and the social gospel, have never been more relevant and timely. The growing intensity of social and political activism reflects a broad yearning for greater democracy, equity and environmental sustainability. Today’s efforts to create a more humane world spring from the same principles of economic, social and political justice that have motivated progressive movements throughout modern history. Now is the time to add new generations of activists to help energize and shape the new form of those principles.
The current debates about the role of the left and the need for a left-wing federal political party are important, not only to the progressive movement but also to the future of Canada. This is a necessary rethinking and realignment of strategies and actions that can change the kind of nation-state we have, our role in it, and its role in the world.
There is an appetite for fundamental change and for a political party on the left that speaks with a clear and confident voice, a party that knows what it stands for and with whom it stands. A strong party on the left - whether it involves the evolution of the NDP or the creation of a new party – can redefine this country and make a critical difference in the world as this new phase of globalization unfolds.
The struggles of the past decade have turned largely on the question of the role of government. We need to be unequivocal about the essential role government plays in society. Government is the only vehicle through which we can achieve fundamental political, economic and social rights of citizenship, fair distribution of economic benefits, and the attainment of community priorities. Without a well-functioning government, we can have no democracy.
But governments are only part of the equation. A vibrant democracy depends on the active engagement of its citizens. A viable and principled left-wing party embraces marginalized voices, the voices of those who are all too often left out of the equation. We need to stand with and work with the people who have been pushed to the margins, to ensure that they too, can flourish. Without full and equal participation, we cannot realize our vision of equity.
Nor can we realize our vision of the future by taking the present for granted. Key to all our dreams is the health of the planet. Protecting ecological balance is not just one on a list of issues. It must underlie all our policies as a core value. All our policies and actions must be measured by the standard of the environmental sustainability necessary to our communities, our health, and our larger home, the earth.
Democracy, equity and sustainability are the foundations of left-wing activity and the pillars of a renewed and revitalized party. These are the principles from which our policies and strategies must flow. These are the standards by which our progress towards achieving human rights, workers’ rights, and a thriving planet will be measured.