A party divided: NDP split down the middle on Mulcair, future

Today in Edmonton, more than half of the delegates present at the Federal NDP convention voted in favour of a leadership change.

Embattled leader Thomas Mulcair wound up obtaining the support of only 48% of delegates, falling far short of the 70% support thought needed to keep his job. This is the first time in history the NDP have voted in favour of an immediate change in leadership.

The results of the Mulcair vote has only added to the murkiness surrounding the future of the party. The party was almost completely split down the middle in terms of opinion on Mulcair, and many contrasts on were heard throughout the convention as to what direction the party should be taking, in light of the disappointing results of the 2015 federal election campaign. Cleavages between the provincial Alberta NDP and the federal party concerning pipelines were widely reported on, and made for some interesting exchanges on the convention floor.

Yet despite the results of today, an interim leader may not be named. Mulcair has indicated that he desires to remain on as leader of the NDP until a new candidate is selected.

It is uncertain at this point how the divided party will react to Mulcair potentially staying on as leader. Given that the search for a new leader of the NDP may go on for as long as 24 months, the split NDP community may be less than enthusiastic to see Mulcair at the helm of their party for that long.

 

 

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Dithering amongst the NDP, and the Liberals couldn’t be happier

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The media storm these days is predicting a rough time ahead for NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair is facing a leadership review next month, from a party that for a time under his tenure was considered the front-runner to form Government in the 2015 federal election.

The NDP fell far short of that mark, dropping a substantial amount of seats, and finding themselves with a substantially smaller budget as the third party in the House of Commons.

These days nobody seems to remember Mulcair’s rapier-like wit on display in the House of Commons during Question Period, or his bravado and success in making the NDP one of the strongest official oppositions in years. The NDP as a whole, being regulated to third party status, has had a difficult time obtaining any media spotlight that isn’t focused on Mulcair’s slowly eroding power. Mulcair does appear committed to continuing on as the NDP’s top dog, and earning the extra $56 800 he receives as leader, on top of his MP salary.

Given the fall of the NDP in the last election, most supporters would be forgiven about wondering if Mulcair will be the right man for the NDP in October of 2019. Mulcair helped take the traditionally leftist NDP, and move it to the center of the political spectrum, speaking to the merits of balanced budgets and lowered taxes for small businesses. If the NDP are to about-face and return to their leftist roots (as it seems they are doing), the Mulcair sell is a difficult one.

However, the Mulcair leadership quagmire is bizarre in that no other credible alternative appears to exist to replace him. There are no names put forward from within the NDP to challenge Mulcair’s position, and even most of the pundit circuit has been slow to offer any alternatives.

Several members of his caucus have come out to support him, while others have only gone so negative as to not offer an outright endorsement of him staying on. Those taking the most issue with Mulcair remaining leader appear to be the grassroots of the NDP; some of whom argue that the NDP’s turn to the center in the last election betrayed the party’s raison d’être.

The recent election was a disappointing turn for the NDP, but this dithering form of infighting is going to be just as detrimental for the party’s future. My prediction? Mulcair will almost certainly survive his leadership test, but enough damage has already been done to take the lustre off of his reign. Between a disappointing election result, and a lack of enthusiasm amongst the grassroots, the NDP almost appears to be in a position of stasis; poised to make no progress until somebody credible presents themselves that can take them in a different (traditional?) direction.

If Mulcair stays on as leader until the next election, it’s likely he will continue pushing many of his supporters to the Liberal Party until the NDP is able to reset itself. Indeed, some opinion polls still have the Liberals dominating public support mainly at the expense of the NDP.  The NDP have potentially created a storm that will set their party back 4 years; a depressing concept given that they still remain reasonably competitive even after the last election. The Liberal Party now has additional time to tighten their stranglehold on the NDP votes they scooped up in the last election, and are also buoyed by the fact that the rest of the opposition parties are also facing some leadership questions of their own.

The Green Party is beginning to murmur about the leadership of Elizabeth May, though it appears that a discussion on replacing her hasn’t gotten very far. The Bloc Québécois is minus Gilles Duceppe after his defeat in last October’s election. MP Rhéal Fortin is the Bloc’s interim leader, but information is scant on what the party intends to do for the future.

The Conservatives are currently well-served by an interim leader in Rona Ambrose, and have a leadership race ongoing with no “officially” declared candidates. However, the Conservative’s push to win government once again won’t be given serious consideration by the Canadian population until a permanent leader is in place – whomever that might be. That’s not to say that Ambrose isn’t up to the job – in fact, some commentators are reporting that a draft Rona movement might be in the best interest of the party given he performance thus far. Until the leadership is finalized, the Liberals have mor eleeway than they normally would.

Stable leadership from all parties will be a factor in blunting the Liberal ascent, but prior to that the Opposition parties all have an ace in the hole – Budget Day is just around the corner, and budgets are a feast for ravenous politicos.  All signs indicate that massive deficits will be on the menu, and this could be a meal that turns the stomachs of many, away from Resto Liberal. Stay tuned.