2017 will be an interesting year across the river from us on Parliament Hill: both opposition parties will pick new leaders, marking the exact end of Prime Minster Trudeau’s honeymoon. Trudeau will suddenly be the “old face”, and no doubt the new leaders will have plenty of ammo against his multiple unfulfilled election promises, starting with the Liberals’ stinker on electoral reform.
My suggestion is that Tom Mulcair would make the best leader for the NDP. After suffering a narrow review defeat, Mulcair stepped aside and accepted responsibility for his party’s election fall. That was gracious and certainly democratic on his part, but it represents no favour to his party.
To state the case, consider that Mr Mulcair’s party was not defeated in an issue-by-issue campaign. Just as the Orange Wave had put the NDP into so many seats, the last election saw a red wave coalesce around the earnest and open-minded image of Justin Trudeau.
Likewise, given early polls in the last election, Mr Harper and the Conservatives focussed their considerable treasury on hammering only Mulcair and the NDP – they believed their own advertising that Trudeau was “not ready”. Mulcair -- leading in early polls -- took the hit on his chin, while Pretty-Boy danced in his corner, ducking almost every one of the few punches thrown his way. So, to blame the election loss on some misjudgement of Mr Mulcair is inaccurate. The election loss cannot be hung on his neck.
Mulcair’s campaign caution was inevitable: facing the well-funded Tory machine, any progressive move on his part would be met by a deluge of Tory accusations of left-wing plotting, socialism, union control, state coercion, higher taxes, etc. Because the Tory attack blocked Mulcair’s progressive agenda, that opening was left to Mr Trudeau, and Trudeau made the most of it: youthful, fresh-faced, pro-women, with promises to everyone. Squeezed by a corporate media hostile to the NDP, Mulcair was vice-gripped.
This left the Liberals free to promise everything. They did. We voters forgot the Liberal playbook, “campaign from the left, govern from the right”, and accepted Mr Trudeau’s breathless promises without weighing their likelihood. Or cost.
Next election, there will be no fresh horse in the race. Mr Trudeau will be burdened with his unfulfilled promises and the Conservatives might even commit hari-kari by “going Trump”. Mulcair would offer a sane, solid, experienced and mature voice. He’s a father-figure, friendly, sane, and no dreamy radical.
As for the NDP’s LEAP manifesto supporters? They felt Mulcair was suffocating them. Anyone remember the old NDP Waffle movement? Same thing: great principles, fine ideals, but no election platform for the day. The NDP has always led with principles, and must continue, but not by giving ideologues the steering wheel. They might help set the roadmap, but Mulcair’s popular support, his experience and respect earned in the street battles of elections, mean Mulcair merits the leadership. And, anyway, who in his party can match his record, his skills?