MP Ashton stops in Swift Current on NDP leadership candidate tour
NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton stopped in Swift Current on April 26 as part of a prairies tour to share her platform with grassroots NDP supporters.
Ashton, who was also involved in the 2012 NDP leadership race, has represented the Manitoba constituency of Churchill as MP since 2008. She was in Swift Current five years ago when she made her first attempt at the federal leadership race, and she returned to the Southwest as another important networking opportunity on the prairies.
“I feel very strongly that we need to understand the kind of economic insecurity people are facing here in the West. The economic downturn has been a real challenge for everybody. That’s why I wanted to come out and hear what’s going on, hear what people are facing. And see the ways in which people are fighting back and are moving forward to build better communities - to demand better of their political leaders,” Ashton said following a speaking engagement to a number of local supporters.
On the strength of her first leadership candidate bid, Ashton is attempting to hear from both long time members and younger progressives as they work to strengthen the federal NDP.
“This is such critical feedback in terms of a critical direction in building a way forward for our party,” she admitted.
“I think we definitely need to stick to our principles, but understand that a lot of people may see politics differently.”
“We need to build a movement for change. And that means engaging with community leaders, with social movements, with activists, and people who care about values that we share. Together we need to effect political change. That means winning elections. That means aiming to win government. But for the right reasons, based on principles and with a clear, progressive vision.”
Ashton is beginning her campaign focusing on the issue of economic justice.
“I feel very strongly that we need to have a clear vision of economic justice, where we call out the inequality that people are facing. Where we call out the policies that have gotten us to the point where inequality has grown. And we’re calling out the rich and powerful that have put forward policies that are pushing us further and further to the margins.”
“There are two big challenges that we face in Canada today, growing inequality and threat of climate change,” Ashton said.
“And when we’re talking about growing inequality, we often talk about how we’re different from the US, we’re better than the US. But the fact is, in terms of economic security, we’re becoming more and more like the US.”
Visiting Saskatchewan, Canada’s second largest oil producer and third largest natural gas producer, Ashton says her own background in representing a boom and bust mining town helps her understand how much research development is to prairie communities. She said the federal government needs to provide important support for value added jobs and processing jobs, no matter the sector. She argues the feds have pulled away from those discussions and are not standing up to protect value added jobs. The current softwood lumber dispute is an example of how devastating that lack of federal direction can be.
She would like to see further diversification of community economies across the prairies, and she is hearing the message in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“The federal government needs to be a partner at that table, to invest in that kind of diversification that’s necessary. And that includes transitioning to greener energy as well. There are significant gains to be made from investments in alternative energy - solar, wind - both in terms of its production and instalment and upkeep. These are jobs that we in the West could be much more involved in, but it does require some foresight and investment from all levels of government.”
She admits that some of the federal election messaging from Liberals clearly resonated with millennials, however these same millennials are now growing cynical after many promises are being broken.
“Those Liberal promises are being broken. Whether it’s on electoral reform, frankly on job creation which is a big issue for young people - jobs, good jobs. Or even on marijuana legalization. Now there is some talk about a potential plan, but there has been some significant criticism of that as well.”
“And so I would say that it’s important that we be in tune with where young people are at, where others are that may have become disillusioned by politics. And I would say definitely for the NDP, in the last election we lost a lot of ground, so we need to reconnect with people that have supported us, people that do share the same kinds of values with us.”