When Saskatchewan police stuffed cannabis activist Marc Emery into a paddy wagon for allegedly sharing two joints with supporters he called out “Vote NDP!” because, currently, the federal National Democratic Party (NDP) is his best hope for ending Canada’s prohibition. Yet when Marc was arrested the Saskatchewan provincial NDP executive told NDP Campus Club President Nathan Holowaty to shut up about Emery in the press.
Holowaty’s base of operations is the University of Saskatchewan, where he helped organize Emery’s presentation to students hours before Emery’s arrest in Saskatoon. Holowaty was surprised at the provincial NDP’s request and defied it liberally.
The rift between federal and provincial factions of the NDP is nearly countrywide. In BC, like in Saskatchewan, elected provincial NDP’ers have supported a war on drugs policy. Meanwhile Federal NDP MP’s from BC like Libby Davies and Svend Robinson support an end to the drug war, and the NDP’s federal leader, Jack Layton, came out publicly in favour of legalization last year, after which the NDP adopted an official pro-legalization platform.
The provincial NDP’s gag order caused a stir in the party all around the country, especially among party faithfuls who have long supported an end to marijuana prohibition. Saskatchewan’s provincial NDP even came under fire from federal candidates in Ontario.
Because the NDP is the only party in Canada with a united provincial and federal membership, the overlap between the two creates some absurdities. For example, the old guard of the provincial NDP has some clout in the federal party, and sometimes interferes with its evolution and growth.
“The people who run the executives are all ancient, like 60 years or older,” Emery explained after his release. “Now young people are joining and finding that these old people are totally without a clue. They say they welcome young people, but only if they don’t rock the boat. The executives are trying to suppress the stated viewpoint of their federal leader.”
It was this same old guard that partially prevented Cannabis Culture Magazine Editor Dana Larsen from representing the federal NDP in one of British Columbia’s ridings. Larsen says he has no regrets, and will continue to support the NDP while also speeding its inevitable evolution.
Although the NDP has been mostly taken over by progressive thinkers, there are still a couple of corners that need some light so that the dust can be blown out of them. The most progressive arm of the NDP is currently its most popular and electable and that, more than anything, will determine the future of the party. In the end, the greatest appeal of the reinvigorating party is that its most enlightened federal candidates actually get elected to office, making for positive change in Canada.