ELECTION 2015: NDP won’t be guided by Leap Manifesto, Cullen says

Call for radical social, environmental reform would scrap trade deals, accelerate climate action

Federal NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen is distancing himself and the party from the Leap Manifesto circulated by prominent activists who want to quickly stamp out fossil fuel use and upend business-as-usual capitalism in the name of social and environmental reform.

Cullen, one of B.C.’s senior federal New Democrats and MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, welcomed debate on policy but said the party would not be pressured into changing its platform.

“These are good and important conversations,” Cullen said in an interview. “But we’re not going to be guided by a manifesto delivered in the midst of a campaign by high- or low-profile people. It’s just not the way to build a sustainable government.”

The Leap Manifesto, released Sept. 15, is backed by anti-globalization author Naomi Klein, environmentalist David Suzuki and others on the left, including the former leader of the Ontario NDP.

It advocates for ideas like erasing poverty with a guaranteed livable income, opposition to new oil and gas pipelines and a shift to localized eco-agriculture.

“We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects,” it says.

Leap advocates say the time is over for a go-slow approach to climate change, calling Canada’s record a “crime against humanity’s future.”

A guaranteed income is not NDP policy, Cullen said, nor is ripping up all trade deals.

“We believe that trade should work in Canada’s favour and we also believe in trade,” Cullen said. “There are some people who don’t believe in trade yet type emails happily into their iPhone.”

Nor does the NDP oppose liquefied natural gas exports – if pipelines and terminals can be built responsibly.

The manifesto comes as the NDP under Mulcair are trying to appeal to centrist voters who worry about the economy, while fending off Green attempts to woo away environmentally minded supporters.

Cullen said the NDP will be taking more decisive action on climate change and insisted the party’s platform offers a credible contrast to the Conservatives.

“We will be pricing carbon, we will take the subsidies away from oil and we will be funding the solutions,” Cullen said. “And those are all things that progressive people want.”

He accused the federal Liberals of only belatedly joining the NDP’s opposition to increased tanker traffic.

“People can tell the difference between parties that are just glancing left in the hope to catch more votes and ones that actually have it in the DNA. Being progressive and answering these big questions is in the DNA of this party.”

Cullen said “aspirational documents” are often circulated by activists of all stripes to try to get parties to make commitments.

The manifesto urges government to tax financial transactions, jack resource royalties, raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and impose a national carbon tax that a backgrounder suggests could charge almost seven times as much as B.C.’s carbon tax.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May says the Leap Manifesto aligns closely with the Green platform.

“I encourage every Canadian to read it and sign it,” May said. “But don’t just sign it – vote for it.”

The Leap website claims nearly 25,000 supporters. Its initiating signatories include numerous musicians, actors, authors and academics.

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