Youth voice strong in leadership campaign

Young delegates play role in choosing NDP leader

With the NDP’s long-awaited and controversial leadership convention beginning on Mar. 6, candidates Steve Ashton, Greg Selinger and Theresa Oswald are busy making final attempts to garner support and strengthen their chance of emerging from Canad Inns Polo Park on Mar. 8 as the NDP leader of Manitoba.

The stakes are particularly high this time around, as this is the closest a leadership challenge has been to a provincial election since 1988 - the election is tentatively scheduled for April 19, 2016.

The upcoming provincial election has been a focal point of each candidate’s campaign, but it has featured most prominently in Theresa Oswald’s platform. The Uniter spoke to Jennifer Howard, one of the “Rebel Five” cabinet ministers who resigned alongside Oswald in November last year, triggering the leadership contest.

Howard says there are a number of reasons why young people should consider supporting Oswald.

“Theresa is, like today’s young people, very forward-looking. She is consistently looking towards the next job we have to get done, without forgetting what we haven’t completely addressed,” Howard says.

Evan Krosney, a Grade 12 student at Oak Park High School and active member of the University of Winnipeg New Democrats, agrees with Howard in saying Oswald is the only candidate who is perceived to be enough of a change from Greg Selinger to defeat the Progressive-Conservative Party in 2016.

“Theresa represents a generational change in our party,” Krosney says. “We won the support of hundreds of (young party members) across the province, and the new energy and excitement radiating from our campaign is a product of all the young people who make up our team.”

Although Oswald handily won the support of the Manitoba Young New Democrats, each candidate has been making youth-oriented promises. 

Steve Ashton, who holds the lead in delegates over the other two candidates coming into convention, has promised to make the premier the Minister Responsible for Youth, to push for a minimum wage increase and to “increase apprenticeship and training within government itself.”

The current premier’s campaign promises have been few and far between, but a spokesperson for Selinger’s campaign stressed his long record of working with and delivering results for students.

“As finance minister, Greg delivered 10 consecutive balanced budgets without sacrificing things that matter, like keeping tuition affordable,” the spokesperson says. “Greg has always placed a lot of value on working with student leaders and politicians, which has led to such developments as the recent elimination of interest of Manitoba student loans.”

Allegiances aside, all the representatives and supporters we reached spoke at length to the importance of young Manitobans engaging in partisan politics. 

Jeremy Read, who runs communications for Selinger’s campaign, presented partisan politics as much more than just aligning oneself with an ideology and defending it.

“Joining a political party is a way for young people to learn the inner mechanisms of government, to meet the current, future and past leaders of your province and country, and most of all to understand how to listen to and understand the viewpoints of others,” he says.

The annual provincial NDP convention takes place at Canad Inns Polo Park from March 6-8. Go to todaysndp.ca for more information.

Published in Volume 69, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 4, 2015)

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