The still-New Democratic Party has a new President, Peggy Nash. I for one am tremendously pleased.
Peggy and I go way back. Many years ago, I sat on the board of the Ontario Federation of Labour as a VP representing the PSAC. Peggy was a VP representing CAW. She had the kind of clear, clean progressive politics that came directly from the heart and the head: she didn't possess an ounce of guile or expediency, the latter sometimes miscalled pragmatism by those who favour power over principle.
I was fairly green in those days, and the level of "pragmatic" cynicism in the place took some getting used to. It wasn't that all the folks around the table were tricksters, or in it only for themselves: the whole range of humanity can be found in the labour movement, including in the senior leadership. It was just that most partook of a legacy of politicking with which I was unfamiliar, and the calculating and alliance-making that went on easily rivaled anything one observes, say, in the House of Commons.
At that time the movement was riven by a clear public sector/private sector split. CAW was, however, one major industrial union that had adopted the progressive social vision of the public sector, and was prepared to be more critical of the NDP than were the industrials. And through it all, not knowing whom to trust or to confide in, Peggy was my friend, and one of the few people around the table who shared my values and to whom I could speak freely.
She went on to serve with distinction on the Executive Committee of the Canadian Labour Congress, and ran twice federally for the NDP in Parkdale-High Park, winning a seat in the House of Commons in 2006, and acting as NDP Industry Critic and Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
She has championed consumer and environmental issues, winning two awards from the Sierra Club. A staunch feminist, she helped found Equal Voice, a national organization that promotes the active participation of women in Canadian politics.
In her new role, Peggy will be a party spokesperson and will be responsible for chairing all NDP national meetings. She will contribute to overall party policy and represent the NDP at numerous meetings and conferences. She will bring much experience and intelligence to her new position, but, above all, unfailing transparency and honesty. With Peggy what you see is what you get, a quality to be prized in the realm of politics. And our party is lucky to get her.
Congratulations, Sister Nash. Make us all proud.