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.”

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