Mulcair is not the NDP’s issue

Opinion Apr 09, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

Thomas Mulcair is not a leader to be easily tossed away. The federal New Democratic Party holds its convention this weekend in Edmonton, and twice as many delegates as usual have been registered. That signals a possible attempt to change the status quo and bring in a new leader for the party. But they should proceed with caution.

Many New Democratic Party supporters were deeply disappointed by the results of the 2015 election, which saw the party dealt major setbacks in the popular rush toward Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party.

But it would be wrong to blame Mulcair for that. Yes, the party lost more than half its seats in last fall's election, but the 44 MPs that remain represent, more or less, normal levels of support for the New Democrats. By contrast, the historically high level of support the party enjoyed in the 2011 election, against which Mulcair's more recent achievements are unfavourably compared, was a unique situation. Much of that 2011 success was in Quebec, where then-leader Jack Layton was extraordinarily popular, the Bloc Québécois was collapsing, and the Liberals were very weak under Michael Ignatieff's leadership. Layton's NDP capitalized on this, and won 103 seats and official opposition status.

Since then, of course, Layton has died and the Liberals have rebounded. The 2015 election was about former prime minister Stephen Harper, a figure most Canadians either loved or hated. Among the latter, there was an overwhelming feeling that getting rid of Harper was the top priority. Gradually, these voters moved to Justin Trudeau's Liberals for their strategic vote.

In fact, there are more pressing and profound questions in front of the NDP than who its leader should be. The party has a major decision to make about its way forward. Should the party stick to the formula of a businesslike approach to finances and strong public services, which has brought success at the ballot box? (Let's recall that the venerable socialist Tommy Douglas, father of medicare, ran balanced budgets throughout his long tenure as premier of Saskatchewan.) This is what Mulcair offered voters last fall. Or should the NDP venture into new territory by endorsing the Leap Manifesto, which calls for radical changes to the economy in order to protect the environment?

The Leap Manifesto demands drastic action but is light on details. Its vision is attractive to many in the party's grassroots, but raises unsettling questions. If, for example, environmentalists persuade the NDP to endorse leaving fossil fuels in the ground and rejecting new pipelines, then how does that reconcile with the needs of Alberta, now under New Democratic Party leadership and struggling with the consequences of low oil prices? Premier Rachel Notley has just challenged the federal government to enable a new pipeline to help get oil products to market. How do the demands of today's economy fit with the idealistic view of tomorrow's? This is the important discussion that needs to take place on the weekend, and not Mulcair's competent leadership. For now, he should continue to lead this party,

Mulcair is not the NDP’s issue

Opinion Apr 09, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

Thomas Mulcair is not a leader to be easily tossed away. The federal New Democratic Party holds its convention this weekend in Edmonton, and twice as many delegates as usual have been registered. That signals a possible attempt to change the status quo and bring in a new leader for the party. But they should proceed with caution.

Many New Democratic Party supporters were deeply disappointed by the results of the 2015 election, which saw the party dealt major setbacks in the popular rush toward Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party.

But it would be wrong to blame Mulcair for that. Yes, the party lost more than half its seats in last fall's election, but the 44 MPs that remain represent, more or less, normal levels of support for the New Democrats. By contrast, the historically high level of support the party enjoyed in the 2011 election, against which Mulcair's more recent achievements are unfavourably compared, was a unique situation. Much of that 2011 success was in Quebec, where then-leader Jack Layton was extraordinarily popular, the Bloc Québécois was collapsing, and the Liberals were very weak under Michael Ignatieff's leadership. Layton's NDP capitalized on this, and won 103 seats and official opposition status.

Since then, of course, Layton has died and the Liberals have rebounded. The 2015 election was about former prime minister Stephen Harper, a figure most Canadians either loved or hated. Among the latter, there was an overwhelming feeling that getting rid of Harper was the top priority. Gradually, these voters moved to Justin Trudeau's Liberals for their strategic vote.

In fact, there are more pressing and profound questions in front of the NDP than who its leader should be. The party has a major decision to make about its way forward. Should the party stick to the formula of a businesslike approach to finances and strong public services, which has brought success at the ballot box? (Let's recall that the venerable socialist Tommy Douglas, father of medicare, ran balanced budgets throughout his long tenure as premier of Saskatchewan.) This is what Mulcair offered voters last fall. Or should the NDP venture into new territory by endorsing the Leap Manifesto, which calls for radical changes to the economy in order to protect the environment?

The Leap Manifesto demands drastic action but is light on details. Its vision is attractive to many in the party's grassroots, but raises unsettling questions. If, for example, environmentalists persuade the NDP to endorse leaving fossil fuels in the ground and rejecting new pipelines, then how does that reconcile with the needs of Alberta, now under New Democratic Party leadership and struggling with the consequences of low oil prices? Premier Rachel Notley has just challenged the federal government to enable a new pipeline to help get oil products to market. How do the demands of today's economy fit with the idealistic view of tomorrow's? This is the important discussion that needs to take place on the weekend, and not Mulcair's competent leadership. For now, he should continue to lead this party,

Mulcair is not the NDP’s issue

Opinion Apr 09, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

Thomas Mulcair is not a leader to be easily tossed away. The federal New Democratic Party holds its convention this weekend in Edmonton, and twice as many delegates as usual have been registered. That signals a possible attempt to change the status quo and bring in a new leader for the party. But they should proceed with caution.

Many New Democratic Party supporters were deeply disappointed by the results of the 2015 election, which saw the party dealt major setbacks in the popular rush toward Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party.

But it would be wrong to blame Mulcair for that. Yes, the party lost more than half its seats in last fall's election, but the 44 MPs that remain represent, more or less, normal levels of support for the New Democrats. By contrast, the historically high level of support the party enjoyed in the 2011 election, against which Mulcair's more recent achievements are unfavourably compared, was a unique situation. Much of that 2011 success was in Quebec, where then-leader Jack Layton was extraordinarily popular, the Bloc Québécois was collapsing, and the Liberals were very weak under Michael Ignatieff's leadership. Layton's NDP capitalized on this, and won 103 seats and official opposition status.

Since then, of course, Layton has died and the Liberals have rebounded. The 2015 election was about former prime minister Stephen Harper, a figure most Canadians either loved or hated. Among the latter, there was an overwhelming feeling that getting rid of Harper was the top priority. Gradually, these voters moved to Justin Trudeau's Liberals for their strategic vote.

In fact, there are more pressing and profound questions in front of the NDP than who its leader should be. The party has a major decision to make about its way forward. Should the party stick to the formula of a businesslike approach to finances and strong public services, which has brought success at the ballot box? (Let's recall that the venerable socialist Tommy Douglas, father of medicare, ran balanced budgets throughout his long tenure as premier of Saskatchewan.) This is what Mulcair offered voters last fall. Or should the NDP venture into new territory by endorsing the Leap Manifesto, which calls for radical changes to the economy in order to protect the environment?

The Leap Manifesto demands drastic action but is light on details. Its vision is attractive to many in the party's grassroots, but raises unsettling questions. If, for example, environmentalists persuade the NDP to endorse leaving fossil fuels in the ground and rejecting new pipelines, then how does that reconcile with the needs of Alberta, now under New Democratic Party leadership and struggling with the consequences of low oil prices? Premier Rachel Notley has just challenged the federal government to enable a new pipeline to help get oil products to market. How do the demands of today's economy fit with the idealistic view of tomorrow's? This is the important discussion that needs to take place on the weekend, and not Mulcair's competent leadership. For now, he should continue to lead this party,