Canada’s third oldest political party turned 98 years young on May 28, just one week after adjourning its 39th Central Convention. Delegates elected from provincial meetings across the country spent May 17-20 at the Casa de Madeira on Toronto’s Dupont Street, debating policies and electing the new leadership of the Communist Party.
The CPC’s conventions are held every three years, to chart a strategic course of action under changing political conditions, after several months of intensive and democratic membership discussions.
This time, a four-day convention was needed, to allow time for maximum debate on updates to the party’s program, “The Future is Socialism”. About 200 amendments were submitted to the convention by party clubs and provincial meetings, on top of a wide range of changes proposed by the outgoing Central Committee. Most of the updates focused on several key topics: the global environment crisis caused by imperialist expansion, women and gender issues, the changing conditions and demographics of the working class, present day social democracy, the rising threat of fascism and right-wing populism, and the struggle for equality of nations within the Canadian state. It will take some time to finalize the text of all the amendments approved by delegates, after which the new version of the program will be published.
Since the updated program is expected to remain relevant for the next few conventions, the outgoing leadership also drafted a Political Resolution on the current political situation, both internationally and in Canada.
The Political Resolution was also debated by party clubs and provincial meetings across the country, resulting in a further 53 proposed amendments, all of which were debated on the convention floor. The CPC’s process of setting policies and electing leadership makes it the most democratic political party in the country, giving all members the right to full participation in making key decisions. (See page 5 for excerpts from the Political Resolution.)
Party leader Liz Rowley kicked off the proceedings on Friday, May 17, with a keynote address zeroing in on latest developments on the global scene and in Canada. Rowley became the CPC’s first woman leader in January 2016, and was re-elected to the position again at the 39th Convention. Her keynote (see highlights on page 7 of this issue) set the tone for the weekend, stressing the struggles for peace and climate justice, and for working class rights, equality and democracy in Canada. With a federal election date now just five months away, Rowley hammered the dismal pro-corporate record of the Trudeau Liberal government, and warned against the threat of a right-wing Tory majority if current polling numbers continue. She presented the main elements of the Communist platform for the October election, in which the CPC hopes to nominate over 25-30 candidates in major cities across the country.
Overall, the 46 voting delegates at the Convention were the youngest and most diverse such group in the Party’s recent history, reflecting the growth of recruiting to the CPC over the past several years. Nearly half of the delegates were women, and many have been or still are active in the Young Communist League. About a quarter of the delegates are from racialized and immigrant communities, or are Indigenous-identified. There was a sizable number of 2SLGBTIQ (“two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, intersex”) delegates, not surprising since many young radical activists today identify as other than cisgendered and heterosexual.
But it’s also notable that the vast majority of the delegates were from working class backgrounds, including many who were either retired or currently active trade unionists. Others have been involved in struggles to organize their workplaces, to win higher minimum wages, or around other working class issues. The Communist Party’s political strategy remains firmly based in the concept of the working class as the force with the strength and numbers to form the core of the movement for revolutionary social change, even as the demographics and conditions of the class undergo significant shifts. Many of the delegates knew from personal experience about the difficulties faced by today’s so-called “precariat”, the millions of workers who are forced to survive on part-time, temporary or contract jobs, with low wages and few if any benefits.
The social highlight of the Convention was a lively Saturday night banquet, featuring music by performers including Wally Brooker, Faith Nolan and Normand Raymond, and greetings from representatives of the Venezuelan and Cuban diplomatic staff in Canada, a comrade from the Sudanese Communist Party, and Dave Bleakney on behalf of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
The banquet paid tribute to PV Editor Kimball Cariou, who is stepping down from full-time work in that position after more than 26 years and 481 issues of the paper. Cariou has published PV from its very first issue, which appeared for International Women’s Day in 1993, under difficult conditions. He will continue to work for the next year with the new editor, former Ontario Communist leader Dave McKee, who takes over at the beginning of July.
As well as Liz Rowley, Dave McKee and Kimball Cariou, the Party’s new Central Executive Committee includes Parti communiste du Québec leader Pierre Fontaine, the new Ontario leader Drew Garvie, YCL leader Adrien Welsh, Jane Bouey from British Columbia, and Miguel Figueroa, the former CPC leader whose main work today is in the Canadian Peace Congress.
The CPC’s incoming Central Committee will hold an online meeting in mid-June, to adopt a platform and launch plans for the impending federal election as the most urgent priority.