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 QuÃ©bec 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 QuÃ©bec, and is a very well known figure in QuÃ©bec 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 QuÃ©bec and outside of QuÃ©bec to regard his policy stances with great suspicion.
Side note: QuÃ©bec 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 QuÃ©bec. 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 QuÃ©bec, 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?Related