The Spectator's View: Tom Mulcair: Yesterday’s hero, today’s target

Opinion Apr 09, 2016 Hamilton Spectator

In politics, fortunes can change in the relative blink of an eye. Typically, the change is unkind. Consider, for example, federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

In the early stages of the federal election campaign late last year, Mulcair visited The Spectator's editorial board. He was in fine fettle, for good reason. His party, and his leadership, were riding high in opinion polls. It looked as if he might extend Jack Layton's unprecedented success. Watching and listening to Mulcair that day, it wasn't a stretch to see him as potentially prime ministerial.

This weekend, he's fighting for his job, and much of the betting is against him being able to attract 70 per cent support from the party for his ongoing leadership. Less than 60 per cent and he's toast, between 60 and 70, he's a lame duck leader. How did Mulcair fall so far so fast? It's hardly fair, but politics rarely are.

It's not as if he personally fumbled the campaign ball. To the extent he made some missteps, there were others to share the blame. Most are already long gone. But the NDP campaign didn't so much fall off the rails as get run over by the rocketing Liberals. Yes, there were some local/regional issues, particularly in Quebec where Mulcair's stance on the niqab controversy and on the formula for Quebec separating hurt the NDP's chances. But Justin Trudeau's position on reversing intolerant Conservative niqab decisions was identical, yet the Liberals were barely wounded.

That's because Trudeau was on a roll. This wasn't so much about the NDP campaign failing as it was about the Liberals succeeding, and the NDP being unable to react. Too, Trudeau was able to seize the progressive side of the political agenda, leaving Mulcair with precious little room to manoeuvre.

That's history, but it's what Mulcair will be judged on. That and his vision for a party now torn between factions that want it to return to more progressive roots and those who recognize the need to broaden its base of support. It's not unlike what the Ontario NDP went through after its unsuccessful move to the centre in the last provincial election.

But how does the federal NDP move left when the Liberals have taken all that ground? On the environment, families, deficits, infrastructure spending and other key areas, the Liberals have taken ownership of the centre and centre-left.

And if the party does move to its historical position, is Mulcair the leader to make that shift? Many say he hasn't got the stomach and doesn't really buy into the party going backward.

But if not Mulcair, who? Some names — names like Nathan Cullen and Megan Leslie — are being tossed around, but no one emerges as an immediate and effective replacement for the veteran leader. NDP members will do what they must, but they should think long and hard. They could find themselves further behind without Mulcair than with him.

Howard Elliott

The Spectator's View: Tom Mulcair: Yesterday’s hero, today’s target

Opinion Apr 09, 2016 Hamilton Spectator

In politics, fortunes can change in the relative blink of an eye. Typically, the change is unkind. Consider, for example, federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

In the early stages of the federal election campaign late last year, Mulcair visited The Spectator's editorial board. He was in fine fettle, for good reason. His party, and his leadership, were riding high in opinion polls. It looked as if he might extend Jack Layton's unprecedented success. Watching and listening to Mulcair that day, it wasn't a stretch to see him as potentially prime ministerial.

This weekend, he's fighting for his job, and much of the betting is against him being able to attract 70 per cent support from the party for his ongoing leadership. Less than 60 per cent and he's toast, between 60 and 70, he's a lame duck leader. How did Mulcair fall so far so fast? It's hardly fair, but politics rarely are.

It's not as if he personally fumbled the campaign ball. To the extent he made some missteps, there were others to share the blame. Most are already long gone. But the NDP campaign didn't so much fall off the rails as get run over by the rocketing Liberals. Yes, there were some local/regional issues, particularly in Quebec where Mulcair's stance on the niqab controversy and on the formula for Quebec separating hurt the NDP's chances. But Justin Trudeau's position on reversing intolerant Conservative niqab decisions was identical, yet the Liberals were barely wounded.

That's because Trudeau was on a roll. This wasn't so much about the NDP campaign failing as it was about the Liberals succeeding, and the NDP being unable to react. Too, Trudeau was able to seize the progressive side of the political agenda, leaving Mulcair with precious little room to manoeuvre.

That's history, but it's what Mulcair will be judged on. That and his vision for a party now torn between factions that want it to return to more progressive roots and those who recognize the need to broaden its base of support. It's not unlike what the Ontario NDP went through after its unsuccessful move to the centre in the last provincial election.

But how does the federal NDP move left when the Liberals have taken all that ground? On the environment, families, deficits, infrastructure spending and other key areas, the Liberals have taken ownership of the centre and centre-left.

And if the party does move to its historical position, is Mulcair the leader to make that shift? Many say he hasn't got the stomach and doesn't really buy into the party going backward.

But if not Mulcair, who? Some names — names like Nathan Cullen and Megan Leslie — are being tossed around, but no one emerges as an immediate and effective replacement for the veteran leader. NDP members will do what they must, but they should think long and hard. They could find themselves further behind without Mulcair than with him.

Howard Elliott

The Spectator's View: Tom Mulcair: Yesterday’s hero, today’s target

Opinion Apr 09, 2016 Hamilton Spectator

In politics, fortunes can change in the relative blink of an eye. Typically, the change is unkind. Consider, for example, federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

In the early stages of the federal election campaign late last year, Mulcair visited The Spectator's editorial board. He was in fine fettle, for good reason. His party, and his leadership, were riding high in opinion polls. It looked as if he might extend Jack Layton's unprecedented success. Watching and listening to Mulcair that day, it wasn't a stretch to see him as potentially prime ministerial.

This weekend, he's fighting for his job, and much of the betting is against him being able to attract 70 per cent support from the party for his ongoing leadership. Less than 60 per cent and he's toast, between 60 and 70, he's a lame duck leader. How did Mulcair fall so far so fast? It's hardly fair, but politics rarely are.

It's not as if he personally fumbled the campaign ball. To the extent he made some missteps, there were others to share the blame. Most are already long gone. But the NDP campaign didn't so much fall off the rails as get run over by the rocketing Liberals. Yes, there were some local/regional issues, particularly in Quebec where Mulcair's stance on the niqab controversy and on the formula for Quebec separating hurt the NDP's chances. But Justin Trudeau's position on reversing intolerant Conservative niqab decisions was identical, yet the Liberals were barely wounded.

That's because Trudeau was on a roll. This wasn't so much about the NDP campaign failing as it was about the Liberals succeeding, and the NDP being unable to react. Too, Trudeau was able to seize the progressive side of the political agenda, leaving Mulcair with precious little room to manoeuvre.

That's history, but it's what Mulcair will be judged on. That and his vision for a party now torn between factions that want it to return to more progressive roots and those who recognize the need to broaden its base of support. It's not unlike what the Ontario NDP went through after its unsuccessful move to the centre in the last provincial election.

But how does the federal NDP move left when the Liberals have taken all that ground? On the environment, families, deficits, infrastructure spending and other key areas, the Liberals have taken ownership of the centre and centre-left.

And if the party does move to its historical position, is Mulcair the leader to make that shift? Many say he hasn't got the stomach and doesn't really buy into the party going backward.

But if not Mulcair, who? Some names — names like Nathan Cullen and Megan Leslie — are being tossed around, but no one emerges as an immediate and effective replacement for the veteran leader. NDP members will do what they must, but they should think long and hard. They could find themselves further behind without Mulcair than with him.

Howard Elliott