Paul Dewar

NDP Catholic MPs stress their social Gospel roots

  • June 22, 2011

OTTAWA - The NDP passed a number of resolutions at its 2011 policy convention that could appeal to voters who care about social justice, say two of the party’s Catholic MPs.

“I think there’s so much of the NDP that was founded in the social Gospel,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus, now the Official Opposition ethics critic. “People think we came out of labour, but we came out of the churches as well, the fight for social justice.”

The NDP wound up its convention in Vancouver June 17-19 fresh off an historic win in May that saw the party shoot past the Liberals to become the Official Opposition. Despite the NDP’s support for abortion and same-sex marriage, Angus contends there’s a lot for Catholic voters to like about his party.

In every speech, NDP Leader Jack Layton talks about a Canada where “no one is left behind,” said Angus, who represents the Ontario riding of Timmins-James Bay. “I think that’s something that people in the pews understand in their heart. They know we are in a very rich country, but something’s not working.”

Angus said his party’s platform goes “right back to the original Gospel values.” Yet Angus has no problem with the NDP’s pro-choice stance on abortion.

“I don’t see any party changing their position on abortion,” he said. “The prime minister has made it clear this is a dead issue as far as he’s concerned. The Liberals are not moving themselves on this.”

Angus said the NDP wants to help people who are raising children, and ensure single mothers have the support they need.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, a Catholic, said the party passed “numerous initiatives that are in line with what I would call the social Gospel and the notion that the New Testament is a testament about what we can do on earth, on what we can do working together making policies that matter.”

The party decided to defer a potentially divisive debate over whether to remove the word “socialist” from the NDP’s constitution. Dewar agreed with the position of the president of the party, Brian Topp, who said the amendment did not propose an inspiring change and he’s glad the issue has been deferred for more study and consultation.

The party passed motions strengthening pensions, particularly for seniors who are sliding into poverty, he said. It also passed resolutions not only to provide those who are out of work with direct support, but also to involve them in the decisions about what kind of training they might be offered.

On foreign affairs, Dewar was pleased the party passed a resolution to ensure Canada has oversight of the mining of minerals that are fueling conflict in places like Africa. The party is also continuing with its push to change the medical-regimes act so that affordable drugs and medicines can be sent to developing countries, he said.

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