#ndpldr Paul Dewar in Vancouver

I should note first that Nathan Cullen, a BC MP and NDP leadership candidate will be meeting tonight at 5pm at The Greedy Pig on Cordova St. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll go or if I need a break from running between events. I have said a few words before about Cullen’s proposals.

After meeting Thomas Mulcair last week, last night I raced around Vancouver and got to meet NDP leadership candidates Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash. Last night was a busy evening as I ran from SFU in Burnaby to King Edward Village (at Knight and Kingsway) for a meeting with Paul Dewar to the Railway Club downtown for Peggy Nash’s event.

My best advice is that you shouldn’t try to do this. After each of these events I like time to sit and collect my thoughts and impressions about the candidate, but this time I was running from one event to the other and only just made it in time for Nash’s speech. Luckily, I grabbed a video of Dewar and the audio of Nash (the lighting in pubs is too poor for good video) so you and I can review their speeches today.

My initial impressions though are that Paul Dewar quite exceeded my expectations, while Peggy Nash was a bit underwhelming. Since I have quite a bit to say, I’ll cover Paul Dewar first and post about Peggy Nash’s event in a subsequent post.

This is perhaps mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dewar. I’ve never really heard him speak, and I had partially written him off after being disappointed by his religious views. Yet last night he came off smart, articulate, friendly, and focussed on issues. Unlike Thomas Mulcair who cruised the bar quickly, shaking hands but failing to really connect with anyone, Dewar seemed genuinely interested in everyone he spoke to.

When he spoke to issues about how to promote social democratic values, he talked about the need to promote positive policies that will prove that social democracy is good for the economy. His example, dear to my heart as a masters of science student, was our current (and arguably failing) approach of giving research tax credits to industry. He says we should instead be looking to places with better success, like the German model of investing in public research institutions.

He also suggested establishing a national green energy grid to get renewable electricity efficiently across the country. I could see some federal-provincial conflict here, but I think it’s better to be too visionary than too cautious here.

In the question and answers he was also asked about the Israel-Palestine issue. As foreign affairs critic, Dewar had little trouble establishing a firm and respectable position. He fully supports a two-state solution established peacefully. Canada’s role, he argued, was to start doing our parts again, and to act as a leader to other countries. By getting each country to do a little bit, he says the peace process will get moving again. Specifically, our part involves reinvesting in the UNRWA who help out on the ground in Palestine and by supporting refugee programs – both things Canada used to do.

He was also asked about growing the party, to which he didn’t just give platitudes about the grassroots, but called for more on the ground organizers, and constituency associations in every riding.

The event organizers basically had to cut him off from taking more questions, but he also answered a question about the Occupy protests. He says New Democrats get the protests and should fight not just for tax fairness, but tax justice. He ruled out any sales tax increases and promised to recover money from tax havens. He was also asked about his position on unions in the NDP, to which he said they are an important part as unions helped form the NDP, but that union values are also NDP values and that the NDP needs to fight for those rights (pensions, labour laws, etc.) for everyone. Finally, federal NDP candidate Meena Wong asked about how to increase diversity in the party, to which Dewar responded that we need to keep reaching out in the same way that Jack Layton and Olivia Chow reached out to her.

Also in the audience was Sheryl Palm, wife of MP Don Davies (who was in the air during the meeting). She said she hadn’t made up her mind, but lived so close to the event that it was worth checking out.

I will finally mention that the event had a very diverse audience with young and old, and a mix of ethnicities. It may have just been partially a function of the area, but it was definitely a promising mix.

Paul Dewar will be back in Vancouver on November 20th and will be speaking for my riding, Vancouver-Quadra at the NDP constituency association AGM.

Here’s the video of his speech: