Thursday, March 31, 2016

Is the NDP really still debating Mulcair's failed leadership?

What the hell is going on in the NDP?

With just over a week to go until the party's first convention since the complete debacle of the 2015 election campaign, bigger-and-bigger guns are coming out in support of Tom Mulcair's continued leadership. It increasingly -- if there was ever really any doubt -- looks like he will win his leadership review vote.

Five of Canada's most important union leaders released a statement backing Mulcair Tuesday. These included the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the National Union of Public and General Employees, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the United Steelworkers.

Mark Hancock of CUPE specifically, said ""Tom Mulcair is a truly progressive voice for CUPE members and all working people," The joint press release stated, "Mulcair is known and respected throughout every part of Canada and has the organic relationship with Quebec to keep and expand our strongest geographic base."

What are they talking about?

Setting aside for the moment that Mulcair's "progressive" bona fides are fairly dubious to begin with and were on scant display when it mattered (namely during the election), Mulcair is now largely known across Canada and among Canadians outside of the NDP as one of two leaders - the other being Harper - who blew the election!

Let us take just a cursory look at the facts about Mulcair's leadership:

  • Mulcair led the party from Official Opposition and 103 seats to third party status and 44 seats
  • He played a major role in allowing the third party Liberals to leapfrog over the Official Opposition (the NDP) to form a majority government - a feat never before accomplished by a third party in federal Canadian parliamentary history!
  • Under his leadership the NDP lost every single seat the party held in Atlantic Canada
  • The NDP lost every single seat in Metropolitan Toronto - without which no progressive party can hope to achieve power,- including one of the "safest" NDP seats in the country. 
  • His "organic relationship" with Quebec apparently was strong enough to see the party's Quebec caucus totally decimated! It went from 59 elected members to 16.
  • Starting the election either in the lead or close to the lead in federal opinion polls, the NDP now sits at a mere 11.7% in the polls, the lowest level of support for the party in over a decade.
What kind of "leadership" is this? In any other party he would have been run out of town!

It is true that Mulcair has gone on a tepid progressive charm offensive, suddenly showing great concern about (though no policies to tackle) income inequality and "social democracy" while also repudiating his "signature" economic policy plank during the election, the disastrous and reactionary balanced budget pledge. 

But who can possibly believe this at best mild change of heart is authentic? 

Given that his leadership, in electoral terms, has been a fiasco of epic proportions one has to think that what is really afoot is that the powers-that-be want to prevent a genuine cleaning of house and the re-examination of the party's fundamental directions and structures that might come in the wake of Mulcair's ouster. 

While it is true that Mulcair alone is not to blame for what ails the party, the party will not be changed, democratized or radicalized in any meaningful way if he remains. Which is likely what his backers wish to avoid. 

Apparently at the expense of political common sense. 

He has had his critics, but they have been few. Figures like Sid Ryan and Cheri DiNovo who have spoken out publicly are, sadly, not within the elite of the party's federal power structure. 

Meanwhile, party president Rebecca Blaikie has backed away from her previous implication that Mulcair would have to resign if he got less than 70% of the vote, setting him up to stay on if he scores in the 60s. 

She probably needn't have bothered. 

Ultimately the decision does lie with those who attend the convention, and while labour leaders and others wield considerable clout, it is conceivable, though unlikely, that their support for Mulcair will be repudiated. 

Those New Democrats not in attendance had best hope so. Otherwise, can the last person leaving the convention hall please turn out the lights? 

Because the party's over.

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