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Finally, the NDP Has a Permanent Leader and Can Get On With Things

Okay, before I talk about the outcome of the NDP leadership race, I should say that the federal budget was released last week, and it’s predictably slashing funding left, right, and centre. Notable among the cuts are the CBC, Elections Canada, and the Chief Electoral Officer (the only officer of Parliament to have funding cut). I’ve not had time to read the whole thing, but from what I’ve heard, it’s regressive and generally terrible.

Anyhoo! Let’s talk about Thomas Mulcair.

Thomas Mulcair was possibly one of the more controversial figures in the race, even though we was widely considered to be the front runner. He was the first NDP MP elected in Québec in a general election (though he was originally elected in a by-election in 2007), helped to spearhead the effort to get more seats in Québec, and is a very well known figure in Québec politics. Before he joined the federal NDP, he was a member of the provincial Liberal party, which raises many eyebrows and causes some people in Québec and outside of Québec to regard his policy stances with great suspicion.

Side note: Québec politics are a very different animal than most other provincial politics. (I can’t speak to all the provinces, but in my experience, this holds true.) The traditional left-right division of parties is muddied by the federalist-sovereigntist-separatist continuum, with a healthy dose of francophone-anglophone-allophone divide to boot. The provincial Liberal party is the only federalist party, and considering the various conflicting axes of political division, it’s not surprising that some people who fall to the left wind up under the Liberal umbrella in Québec. It’s not like in British Columbia where the Liberals are more or less the Conservative Party, for instance.

Right, so Mulcair was a provincial cabinet minister for some time, holding the sustainable development and environment portfolios, until he quit Cabinet very publicly in 2006 after his opposition to ceding park land to condominum developers. He didn’t run in the next provincial election, instead standing for the NDP. He was elected, then chosen as one of the deputy leaders of the NDP along with Libby Davies, and the rest is history.

But he’s said some controversial things, and a lot of them don’t sit well with the more hard left wing of the party. He’s come out in favour of the tuition raises in Québec, which has a lot of people concerned. He’s a very strong supporter of Israel, which doesn’t sit well with many on the left, he’s attacked notably Libby Davies as a result of it, and he’s known for shooting his mouth off.

And this is something the NDP as a whole needs to keep a reign on. I think, given the depth of the leadership candidates and the depth of the caucus, that the party structure will help with this. The NDP prides itself on working with people in a way that, say, the Conservatives just don’t, so I think (hope?) the opinions of the breadth of the caucus carry more sway at the top of the party leadership. And the caucus has its work cut out for it, because Mulcair is a loose cannon. While I think he’s got the bombasticity to take on Harper on his on turf (and the contrast between Mulcair’s fire-in-the-belly and Harper’s stoneface will play well for the NDP), I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not going to lose the support of a) the people who stuck with the NDP through the less successful years and got the party to where it is today and b) his caucus. And he may be capable of taking down Harper (and I hope he is!), but there’s no way he’s going to be able to do it if his own caucus is divided and fractious.

I think it was very wise to keep Davies on as deputy; replacing her would confirm (or at least cement) the notion that he’s trying to distance himself from the roots of the party and pull the party to the centre. (He maintains that he wants to pull the centre to the NDP, and it’s worth noting the Layton was himself doing much the same thing.) I remain cautiously optimistic, and I guess we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.

So, what’s your take on his election?

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Millie

Millie is a perpetual grad student, an internationally recognized curmudgeon, and an occasional hugger of trees. She also makes a mean batch of couscous.

10 thoughts on “Finally, the NDP Has a Permanent Leader and Can Get On With Things”

  1. Millie, I’d like to nominate you to write an article about the cuts to the CBC, and the announcement about Espace Radio and Radio Two yesterday.  I’ve really been impressed with what they’ve done with digital media (Radio Three, the streaming music channels and their overall presence). And then to be CUT? Argh.

     

    (rage is starting in five, four, three, two…..)

  2. I’m with @wannabemusicologist that their winning of the official opposition had a lot riding on Jack’s personality.  In addition to that, I think the Liberals being a mess also played a role.

    I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere that the NDP elected a Liberal leader and the Liberals have an NDP leader; yet, all are refusing to to utter the word ‘merger’.  I haven’t formed an opinion one way or the other about a merge of center and left, but I do think I should spend some time thinking about it.  I can see the pros – the right had to merge in order to form government, Blair had to brand ‘New Labour’, which was a move to center, etc.  However, my gut instinct is that I like the multi-party politics of Canada and am not a fan of the two party system like the US.  It’s a tough one.

    As for the job Mulcair will do…. I don’t know.  I think the things I dislike about him, his center politics, his big mouth, arrogance, are all probably things that will make him a great opposition leader who is able to take on Harper.

    I am one of those people who thinks a strong opposition is just as important as the governing party.  Though, perhaps that’s just because my party has never been in power.  However, when I look at the dark days of Canadian politics (and some of the western provs. as well), they all have in common an ineffective opposition.  I’m thinking the Liberals under Chretien when the right was a mess, right now with Harper in power, Alberta for the last million years, BC at various times, SK at various times, etc.

    I would love to see an article on the provincial elections that are coming up (BC, AB, QE).  Especially, Alberta, where they are about to elect a female premier.  Also, I haven’t been around much, but would love to see something about the crazy of those tweets about Danielle Smith’s lack of bio children and her very smart, very political response.  There was also an insanely patronizing article in the G&M, that was unbelievable in response to it all.

     

    1. I’m out east, so I’ve got a much better sense of Ontario/Quebec politics than I do Western politics.  Ontario politics may get interesting in a hurry — Andrea Horvath’s issued an ultimatum on tax reform, and may bring down McGuinty over it — and Quebec politics are always a big kettle of drama.  I missed the bit about Danielle Smith — do you have a link?  I’m reeeeally curious what happened.  I’ll do some research on the BC and AB elections though, and try and get one up on that in the next little while.

      I have strong feelings against a merger, because I don’t think it’ll work the way some people think it will, and the Conservatives and Reform had waaaaay more in common than the Liberals and NDP do.  The Liberals are not leftists!  They are centrists generally, and often lean centre-right!  Even with the NDP’s creep to the centre, there are large, fundamental differences in platform and policy there!

      1. Here is a run down of what happened on Twitter.

        http://blogs.canoe.ca/davidakin/politics/redford-staffer-resigns-over-inappropriate-twitter-attack-on-smith/

        And now, prepare to have your rage go through the roof and have a look at this gem.  Although, I did see politicos on Twitter calling out how insane this thing is:

        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/gary_mason/on-fertility-danielle-smith-protests-too-much/article2388816/

        In case you don’t know much about Smith, she is crazy good in the media (former journalist).  I also hear whispers that she is nowhere near as right as her party.  I’m not sure about now, because I haven’t looked in ages, but traditionally on the WR website there is nothing in regards to social policy like abortion, gay marriage, etc.  She is very pro both, claims a libertarian slant.  That said, I think that’s a lot of Alberta.  As long as the oil is flowing they don’t really care about much else.

        History is about to be made in Alberta.  They will have an elected female premier and secondly there is a really good chance the WR is going to sweep the province.  An interesting factoid is that there have only ever been four parties in power.  Once each of those parties lose, they are never to be elected as winners again so we could be seeing the end of a 40 year Conservative rule this election, which I’m not endorsing frankly, I like Redford.  She is definitely a ‘red tory’.

        The AB election makes me smirk on a number of levels – AB is going to elect a female premier and places like SK that pretend to be progressive haven’t yet, despite some great women in various parties, people act like AB is full of rednecks when they have an NDP MP and SK doesn’t, and of course, my personal favourite, Toronto has Rob Ford and Calgary has Naheed Nenshi, elected at 39, Muslim, and was super excited to be the grand marshal of the gay pride parade.

        In conclusion, that is the most positive I have ever been about the province of Alberta!

  3. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude on this whole thing. No one (NO ONE) can replace Jack, but hopefully Mulcair can succeed him on a few fronts.

    Also, because it always needs to be said, I hate Harper so much.

    1. Mmmm.  I think trying to fill Layton’s shoes is a recipe for failure, and I think the party is smart enough to avoid pushing Mulcair to be that.  Mulcair’s got enough ego that I don’t think he’d do it on his own, so I think we’re okay on that front.

      And there’s no such thing as too much rage at Harper.

      1. I was pleased when they didn’t elect a Layton-lite. What’s the point? Also that Libby, who is SO well respected continues to be Deputy.

         

        And gads, can we PLEASE get rid of Harper? The arrogance, the anti-intellectualism. He makes me cringe.

  4. Were you extremely suspicious when the chief electoral officer’s pay was cut? I would think I was being a paranoid nut if it wasn’t for Harper’s whole history of punishing those who displease him (and the fact that the conservatives didn’t just get away with the whole robocalls thing probably really pissed him off).

    In terms of the NDP, I worry that they are done for- I think so much of their winning of the official opposition rested on Jack Layton’s personality and less on their politics. But maybe Mulcair’s fire in the belly personality is exactly what’s needed. Overall, we just really need a strong left voice in this country and waiting around for the Liberal party to get it together hasn’t been working so well.

    1. I’m beyond suspicious about the chief electoral officer’s funding being cut — I don’t think there could be a clearer declaration of contempt for electoral law and oversight, given that a) Elections Canada also had a funding cut, b) no other officer of Parliament had their funding cut, and of course c) the fact that there’s an ongoing national investigation in widespread electoral fraud.  I’m also of the opinion that the line between “reasonably suspicious person” and “paranoid nut” is a lot further towards “paranoid nut” under this government (and in politics in general), so what may seem as looking for a conspiracy in everyday life is probably healthy suspicion in politics.  And people wonder why politics turns so many (other?) people off!

      We definitely need a strong voice on the left, and Mulcair can be that.  But it needs to be the *whole* caucus, not just Mulcair, and we’ll see if that pans out.

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