NDP looks to future of party: Should Mulcair stay or go?
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair asks a question during question period in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2016 4:07PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:08PM EDT
A growing number of New Democrats are questioning whether Tom Mulcair should stay on as leader after the party convention in April.
Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, who came in seventh place in the 2012 leadership race, refused to state Monday whether she will offer Mulcair a vote of confidence at the gathering in Edmonton.
Ashton’s refusal came on the same day that three former NDP MPs from Quebec published a letter in Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper expressing concern that the party has "forgotten its raison d'etre."
Jamie Nicholls, Elaine Michaud and Helene LeBlanc said they did not feel represented in the NDP electoral platform they had to defend last year before losing their seats.
Michaud, who lost to a Conservative in the riding of Portneuf -- Jacques-Cartier, told CTV’s Power Play that she “has her doubts” about Mulciar.
“Then again, Tom Mulcair has always called himself a progressive, always said he wanted to defend socialist values,” she said. “I’m still debating.”
Michaud said she sees Mulcair’s leadership as only part of what went wrong in the last election, when the NDP was reduced from 103 seats and official opposition status to just 44 seats.
Michaud said members are also concerned they did not get enough input into party policy, which she says was dictated from the top.
“There’s a few announcements, I’ll be totally honest,” she said, “I had no idea it was coming and you just have to deal with it on the campaign at the doorstep.”
Michaud said she does not see any “obvious replacements” to Mulcair but that “no one knew how far Jack Layton would go when he started his bid for leadership.”
Barry Weisleder, a former high school teacher and leader of the NDP Socialist Caucus, told Power Play he is adamant that Mulcair needs to go.
Weisleder blames Mulcair for election the “disastrous” election results and pointed out the NDP is now polling as low as 10 per cent.
He said the socialists are calling for a “democratic revolution in the NDP” with conventions devoted to debating policy debates, rather than “self-congratulatory speeches.”
“Policies that come from the grassroots are subordinated to those that come from on high and they tend to be right-wing policies, like trying to get socialism removed from the NDP constitution,” he added.
Weisleder said that Mulcair will not have the confidence of his party unless he receives at least 75 or 80 per cent of the votes in Edmonton.
Although he would not suggest name any potential candidates, Weisleder said the NDP and its affiliated trade unions have a “wealth of talent” and that he expects “many strong voices will emerge calling for socialist policies” after the April convention.
The NDP's constitution calls for a new leadership vote within one year of the convention if more than 50 per cent of members call for new leadership.
Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo is among the few prominent New Democrats who have called on Mulcair to step down.
Party President Rebecca Blaikie wrote last month that a party panel analysing the election results had concluded that the party lost ground to the Liberals by presenting "cautious change" at a time when voters wanted something closer to the Liberal’s “real change” slogan.
"It allowed the Liberals to contrast themselves from the Conservatives more clearly and overshadowed our strongly progressive economic platform which included higher taxes on corporations, crackdown on tax havens and a federal minimum wage,” she wrote.
Many pundits have suggested Mulcair’s biggest mistake was promising to balance the budget at a time when the Liberals said they would run a deficit and spend big in order to stimulate the economy.
Mulcair told Power Play in February that he didn’t see it that way.
"If the NDP had started off the campaign by saying, 'You know, we've got this idea, we're going to run consecutive deficits of tens of billions of dollars,' I don't know if that would have caught on like wildfire with the electorate,” he said.
"It wasn't so much that we decided to say that we would have balanced budgets, as we said, 'Well, there's revenue missing from the government and that's the revenue from corporate taxes',” he added.
Brian Topp, who was runner-up at the party's 2012 leadership vote, said during last year’s election that promising to balance the budget would prove disastrous.
“If there are two parties pitching Liberal ideas in the next election, voters will choose the real one,” he predicted.
Topp is now serving as Chief of Staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.
With files from The Canadian Press