The New Democratic Party (NDP) recently announced the Federal Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound nomination for this year’s upcoming Fall election at the nomination meeting held at the Harmoney Centre in Owen Sound on April 13th.
Nominee, Chris Stephen of Arran-Elderslie, was unanimously voted in with no other candidates coming forward.
Stephen is a long-time employee of the Arran-Elderslie municipality in Bruce County and an original resident of Chesley where he grew up and went to school. He is vice-president of CUPE Local 255 and has focused on creating better relationships with management int he workplace while also representing his local union on the Grey Bruce Labour Council.
“I worked at the Tri-County Cattle Company where I learned the value of hard work,” says Stephen, “and where I came face to face with some of the challenges that farmers have to deal with.”
Stephen adds that the NDP is the “… only party that seems to care about blue collar people. Too often we are told by politicians what is good for us without their actually knowing the struggles of the families they represent.”
Keynote speaker at the nomination meeting was Ed Broadbent, former NDP leader, who has not lost any of his fire or enthusiasm for the NDP philosophy. “There are three characteristics for the social democratic – equality concerns, human rights concerns and the concern of building equal societies.
“In 1943, in Onatario, the party (then the CCF) came within a few seats of forming the government in the province. In the same year, the party came within a few seats of forming the government in British Columbia. In the following year, 1944, Tommy Douglas formed the first social democratic government in North America in Saskatchewan. So, right across Canada, our movement was building at the same time that it was doing so across Western Europe.”
“The Labour Party in England of 1945 established the social democratic movement as a deeply popular and transformational part of British history and established the welfare state,” added Broadbent. “At the same time, this was going on in the Netherlands, post-war Germany and also in France. From 1945 to 1975, most of western Europe was under social democratic governments.”
According to Broadbent, the most basic vision of the NDP is ‘equality’. “Economic differences within society should not be great and the government has an obligation to work on policies and programs to make sure that we do not have deep inequality.”
He said that for Social Democrats there are aspects of life that should be taken out the market. “We should have rights as human beings that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. That is of great importance that, in fact, leant to the establishment of Medicare by Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan and that has lead to the demand by many for social economic rights. “
Broadbent went on to draw a comparison for tax rates. “In 1971, the tax rate for high income people was 80 per cent and that has shriveled to 50 per cent. Therefore, in 1971, the wealthy were paying their share so it’s no surprise that we have inequality today in 2019. In addition, from 1945 to 1975, there was high economic growth, social justice and new economic programs.”
“When it come to the term ‘populism’ today, it brings to mind a movement animated by polarizing hatred, racism and anti-democratic designs,” said Broadbent. “However, progressive populism speaks directly to the concerns of those threatened by inequality, democratic decline and the perceived indifference of elites and political leadership. Senator Bernie Sanders in the United States takes aim at elites and their self-serving use of power and he calls for a diverse popular front with the goal of strengthening and reinvigorating democracy and uniting movement for social, racial, economic and environmental justice in a common struggle … and that’s what I stand for.”
Stephen added that “It’s time for regular people to step up and change the face of the political landscape. I am a blue-collar person and it’s time for blue-collar candidates to start to come to the forefront across the country.”
Stephen is a minor hockey coach (Coach of the year 2018-19), a soccer coach and his wife Amy, a school teacher, is also a Labour Council rep and plays with the Southampton Concert Band.