Friday, 10 June 2016

The NDP doesn’t need a new leader...

They need a new party

The NDP is currently going through one of the least controversial leadership races in Canadian political history. So far Tom Mulcair has been booted from the incumbent job giving him little choice but to hang up his orange leader hat, or face an embarrassing defeat at the convention.  So far several popular NDP MPs have made announcements regarding their leadership bid. 

Former deputy leader, and recent landslide election loser Megan Leslie has said she won’t enter the race and she was arguably the NDP MP with the most experience. Leslie’s seat even had NDP prestige being held by former leader Alexa McDonah for more than a decade. Nathan Cullen, a popular name in party circles has ruled himself out, Ontario MP Cheri DiNovo recently held a press conference announcing she would not run because she didn’t have the money (the press conference was presumably free to organize, plan, and hold). 

(The Greatest Canadian poll is rated as one of CBC's most accurate)
Why is no one scrambling for the top job? Is the NDP still a party that’s worth running? This was after all, the first Canadian political party to put a woman at the Helm. The NDP were the party that brought public healthcare to Canadians. I mean the greatest Canadian ever, Tommy Douglas, was an NDP man (according to a 2004 CBC poll). So why, in 2016, does no one want the job anymore?

If I were to take a guess, it may have to do with the fact that this isn’t the same NDP. For the last decade or so the NDP has been moving more and more to the centre, leaving their truly socialist roots behind them. Jack Layton, a personal hero and the best NDP leader of my lifetime, was just as guilty of centring the party as anyone else. After all it was under his leadership that the NDP seemed to badger the public with talk of a coalition with the Liberals just for a chance at unseating the Conservatives in 2009. Speaking of 2009 and the NDP “Orange Crush”, man predicted this to be the signal that the NDP was truly on the same level as the Liberals and Conservatives, but like a ballon that wasn’t tied they quickly deflated. After a few years of the rhetoric, and question periods where the NDP sounded more and more like the liberals every session, no one saw a strong ideological difference between the two left parties. Canadians seemed to finally understand that a vote for the third place party is sometimes a vote for the first place one (at least in a FPP system). The NDP in recent election have generated just as many action plans, potential budgets, attack ads and all the rest of the accoutrements as the other big parties. Jack, and the leaders before him realized they could do more by playing the same game. They forgot that what led to their slow rise in popularity was the fact they didn’t resemble the other parties. “Anyone but Harper” was probably the death of a successful NDP. When people ceased to vote for the NDP and started to vote against  the Conservatives, this means Canadians viewed the NDP as little more than and end to a means. 

If the NDP want to gain back some ground politically there is no easy solution. They have to do what Tommy, and Alexa and the other NDP pioneers did before them: slowly and steadily build up a left wing opposition that is both credible and sustainable. Now I know that’s not a snappy punchline, but it’s the truth. What established the NDP was not that they were seated to the left. It’s that they had progressive ideas, and the credible background to pull them off. At this point the NDP has a long road to rebuilding, and clawing back their position in Ottawa. 

There is a party in Canada that might be able to help them speed this up a little, even if they don't look overly happy about the prospect.
Image result for elizabeth may angry
(An unhappy MP May in the foreground -
 The Green Caucus pictured in the background)

Elizabeth May and the Green party have been so slowly building a base. The are honest to the point of looking stupid - for instance they didn't release a budget plan for last election as they admitted they had no resources to do it properly. This is compared to the NDP who spent the time and money generating a plan, that was equal parts crazy, and wishful, but was not by most analysts review based in reality. If the NDP wants to stand tall on the hill again, they are going to  need a backbone. In Canadian politics there are two ways to get an ideological backbone. One can either grow it themselves over a very long time and carefully made decisions, or you can do what the PC’s did in the 90’s, transplant a backbone thats more ideologically pure than you are. Uniting the right gave new life to Canadian conservatism. It’s time for the NDP caucus to provide their constituents a competent crew MP’s with an ideological backbone rooted in the left. Elizabeth May would make a great NDP whip, just saying. 

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