Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thomas Mulcair elected NDP leader and Leader of the Opposition on 4th ballot

Thomas Mulcair has just been elected as leader of the New Democratic Party in Canada, following the untimely death of former leader Jack Layton last summer.
A former member of the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest, a former labour lawyer, Mr. Mulcair defeated Brian Topp on the fourth and final ballot. The two other candidates who finished in the top four were Peggy Nash and Nathan Cullen.
One of the themes of the leadership campaign was the question of the relationship betwen the NDP and the Liberal Party, nearly annhiliated on May 2, in the last federal election.
Som irony: a former NDP Premier, Bob Rae is the interim leader of the Liberals, while a former Liberal cabinet minister is now the leader of the NDP. Could there be a next chapter of this narrative that sees these two "progressive" parties forming a united front to defeat Steven Harper. Some certainly hope so; others reject that prospect as one that would "water down" social democratic principles that form the cornerstone of the NDP foundation.
The fiery Irishman is one of several children, known for his quick brain and angry retorts in the House of Commons, and some suggest also in his personal relationships.
He has inherited a complex and challenging set of issues including among others:
  • the need to show that the NDP surge in Quebec (59 seats) was not a flash in the pan
  • the need to bring Quebec issues back to the forefront on the national agenda
  • the need to show Jack Layton loyalists that Jack's work will be carried on by the new leader
  • the need to bring all factions of the party together in a working relationship in the caucus, starting on Monday when the House of Commons reconvenes
  • the need to best both Steven Harper and Bob Rae in the debates in the House, from day one, in order to demonstrate that the party chose wisely
  • the need to develop and announce policies that will unite the progressive voters across the country, without frightening moderates into the Conservative camp
  • the need to choose advisors who can and will coach the new leader in discipline, in public speaking, in control of his emotions and in preserving and protecting his strengths without deferring to his weaknesses
  • the need to generate a substantial war chest with which to fight the Conservative "war machine" known to work 24-7, not only during campaigns but every day prior to the election writ
  • the need to connect with party members across the country, in order to develop a sense of their priorities, and to plan for a policy convention that must be held between now and the election of 2015
  • the need to build bridges between him and his opponents, particularly Brian Topp, the candidate many considered the legitimate inheritor of the Jack Layton legacy, given their close presonal and professional relationship
  • the need to move into Stornoway, the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition, and to create a persona as the Prime Minister in waiting that is both credible and authentic
Mr. Mulcair will have to perhaps shed a few layers of his acknowledged considerable pride, demonstrate his capacity to both listen and to honour "the other" in a party whose history and tradition may well still be somewhat foreign to his political tastes and experience. There are literally millions of Canadians who want the Harper government to be "given the boot" as other candidates put it throughout the convention this weekend, and many will be counting on Mr. Mulcair and his colleagues to be the primary agents for that deeply held wish and hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment