Today, delegates at the Federal NDP Convention in Edmonton voted to oust leader Thomas Mulcair and have a race for a successor. Mulcair appealed to delegates to remain as leader. Although a simple majority of delegates would have technically kept his job, but in February outgoing NDP President Rebecca Blaikie (basically the equivalent of being Chair of the Democratic National Committee) said Mulcair needed 70% of support from delegates to carry on. Mulcair will remain leader until his successor is chosen.
Mulcair’s job has been hanging in the balance since the NDP’s disastrous performance in last October’s election. As bada as the election was for the Conservatives in losing office, it was even worse for the NDP who believed they would gain office. Widely expected to form Canada’s first ever NDP government, instead the second wave of Trudeaumania came along and the NDP lost 51 seats. Many NDP activists were angry that Mulcair had moved the party to the center advocating balanced budgets while Justin Trudeau talked about deficit spending for the first three years of a Liberal government and outflanked Mulcair on the number of Syrian refugees to be accepted (Trudeau called for 25,000 while Mulcair called for 10,000). As bad as the election was for the Conservatives in losing office, it was even worse for the NDP who believed they would gain office.
Honestly, I’m not so sure if Mulcair was too centrist. He just isn’t as young and handsome as Justin Trudeau. With that said, the NDP reaches its electoral heights with a man who walked with a cane. Jack Layton died only four months after guiding the NDP to Official Opposition status for the very first time. Had Layton lived, I think Trudeau would have had a far greater hill to climb.
I think Mulcair thought if Andrea Horwath could survive a challenge to her leadership of the Ontario NDP after going from holding the balance of power in a minority government to being a third party with no influence, so could he. But in all honesty, Mulcair simply prolonged the NDP’s agony by staying on another six months. Had he resigned right after the election today’s proceedings in Edmonton would have been far less dramatic.
Against the backdrop of Mulcair’s last supper was the debate over The Leap Manifesto which was launched last September by the husband and wife team of Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein. Lewis’ grandfather David led the NDP from 1971 to 1975 while his father Stephen led the Ontario NDP from 1970 to 1978 and later appointed by Canada’s Conservative PM Brian Mulroney to be Ambassador to the UN (and would appear at the Convention to make an impassioned speech in favor of The Leap Manifesto). Klein has written a number of anti-globalization books No Logo and The Shock Doctrine I’m not so sure that socialists should be using the word leap. When Mao took “The Great Leap Forward” China ended up in a famine. This hasn’t prevented the likes of Pamela Anderson, Donald Sutherland, Neil Young and Alanis Morissette from publicly declaring their support.
Not only does the Leap document embrace the NDP’s anti-capitalist roots, it is equally radical in it environmentalism calling for fossil fuels in the ground and for an end to building pipelines. Given that Alberta’s economy is centred on oil that didn’t exactly sit too well with Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley & called upon delegates to reject The Leap Manifesto to no avail. While NDP delegates didn’t explicitly endorse the document they did agree to debate it at the forthcoming NDP Leadership Convention. Yes, Notley unseated a Tory government in Alberta that had been in power since 1971. But that was so 2015. The NDP is in third place in the polls in Alberta behind the Tories and the Wildrose Party. A fall an oil prices has been complicated by the Notley government’s decision to impose a $3 billion carbon tax, emissions reductions the phase out of electricity produced by coal by 2030. The fact the NDP’s currently most successful politician can’t persuade delegates in her home province to reject The Leap Manifesto is an indication that the NDP is fully embracing the left-wing ideology which saw Jeremy Corbyn become the leader of Britain’s Labour Party and has kept Bernie Sanders a thorn in Hillary Clinton’s side that show no signs of leaving.
All of this makes me wonder if Avi Lewis will follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and run for the NDP leadership. If that were to come to pass we would likely see Justin Trudeau embrace NDP/Leap Manifesto policy under Avi Lewis just as Pierre Trudeau implemented NDP policy during David Lewis’ tenure in the early ’70’s. In which case, Canadian voters would reward Trudeau’s Liberals while keeping the NDP on the fringes and Canadians footing the bill.
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