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NDP quickly closes debate on contentious motion

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A Winnipeg NDPer surprised a lot of people Sunday when just minutes into a debate on the proposal to tone down socialist rhetoric in the statements defining, he moved to call the motion to a vote.

On Sunday in Montreal, one of the last things the party was doing at its policy convention was debating a proposal to broaden and modernize the party's defining principles, with a view to encouraging more Canadians to vote NDP in the next election.

But after just a few people had a chance to stand at the microphone to speak to the proposal  - among them former Manitoba MP Bill Blaikie who was on the committee that drafted the proposal - debate ground to a quick halt. 

Carlos Sosa, an NDP member from Winnipeg North, said he thought the debate was going to get "divisive and ulgy" and he wanted to prevent that. So he stepped up to an accessible microphone reserved mainly for people with disabilitie, complained first on a point of order that those microphones were being ignored (despite the fact there was nobody other than Sosa waiting at them) and then when the chair acknowledged him, Sosa moved for the motion to come to a vote.

"I think it was the best move," he said.

The party then voted 1,500 to 399 in favour of going straight to a vote and then voted 960 to 188 to pass the motion.

So just to review, this is the same party which for the last two years has repeatedly pointed fingers at the Conservatives for ending debate quickly on legislation such as budget bills, crime bills, pretty much almost every bill.

It's more than just a little hypocritical then that the NDP voted to do the same thing to end debate on a proposal that changes the definition of what the NDP is and what it stands for. This wasn't just voting on what to have for lunch.

Winnipeg MP Pat Martin, who once went on a twitter tirade against the Conservatives for closing debate, said he was not happy with what Sosa did.

"It was bizarre, unexpected and unwelcome," said Martin.

Martin supported the motion but said Sosa was working completely on his own and not with any prodding or support from anyone in the party. 

"A lot of people felt cheated," he said. "They were lined up right to the door at the microphones."

Martin said it is hypocritical to criticize the Tories for limiting debate and then to do the same thing.

"If we believe our own rhetoric it looked bad," he said. 

Nevertheless, the NDP voted by a wide margin to back Sosa's move.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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