After Tom Mulcair, what's next for the NDP?
Published Monday, April 11, 2016 9:34AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 11, 2016 6:20PM EDT
The federal NDP has up to 24 months to appoint a new leader but the party’s new president says it may not be in the interest of the party to take that long.
Marit Stiles told CTV’s Power Play Monday that the party will be “well-served” by Thomas Mulcair in the House of Commons until a new leader can be chosen.
“He’s a supreme parliamentarian as you know. I think our party, our caucus are well served by him in this role as long as he’s willing to stay there.”
Mulcair was not in question period Monday.
“This was a shock to everyone, I would say pretty much, at the convention that it would be such a decisive vote,” said Stiles, a Toronto school board trustee and communications strategist.
At a party convention in Edmonton this past Sunday, 52 per cent of party delegates voted to begin a leadership race.
Stiles said the party will release information about a future leadership convention “soon” but that these are early days in deciding on a path forward. She pointed out that the NDP constitution requires a leadership convention within a year and it’s probably not in the best interests of the party to take two years.
She rejected the notion that the party is divided, saying it’s been “overplayed” by Conservative and Liberal pundits and that there was a positive feeling on the floor of the convention.
“I think what’s really actually exciting here is the opportunity for our party to go through a process of renewal. We get an opportunity to look at potential new caucus, maybe from within the caucus, maybe from outside the caucus.
After Sunday’s shocking vote, Mulcair urged unity as he offered to continue to lead the party.
"Don't let this very divided vote divide us.”
CTV News political analyst Scott Reid said no one saw the vote coming.
"This does not happen. You do not have a leader go into a review convention and not even meet the minimum 50 per cent threshold," Reid told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
"So obviously, he either didn't know, or he thought he could turn opinion around on the weekend. In any event, Tom Mulcair's leadership is now completely over."
Former NDP MP Olivia Chow also said many were shocked by the outcome of the leadership vote, but the results were clear.
"There was a bit of stunned silence when it was announced," she told Canada AM, describing the mood at the convention. "But I think there was a really clear sense that we were not connecting enough with our neighbours -- that we have not been able to talk about the kind of change we want. We haven't been able to talk about the vision of the kind of Canada we want."
Reid says, for now, the party has no apparent leader-in-waiting and no clear direction on where to go next.
Early in last year's federal election campaign, the NDP was pegged as a potential frontrunner. However, the party eventually lost more than 50 seats on Oct. 19, losing its status as Official Opposition, and sliding back to third place.
Critics blamed the party's platform, which promised cautious change. Meanwhile, the Liberals ran on a bolder platform of running deficits to boost spending and spur economic growth.
At the NDP convention, rifts were also exposed in the party over the Leap Manifesto. The document, first unveiled during the election, calls for a dramatic transformation of the Canadian economy, based on ending reliance on fossil fuels.
The document also calls for a halt on new infrastructure projects aimed at increasing extraction of non-renewable resources, including pipelines.
Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley said Monday that her government “repudiates” the sections of the document covering energy. She called the ideas naïve, ill-informed and tone deaf.
Avi Lewis, a documentary filmmaker and key writer of the Leap Manifesto, told CTV’s Power Play that the debate around Canada’s future economy and environment needs to be “thoughtful, calm and grown up.”
“I hope people can find a way out of these old, ugly conversations” in which Albertans are cast against other parts of the country.
He said the NDP have only committed to having a debate, not to building policy out of the document.
Reid said the party now has to decide which political direction to go in next.
"Are they going to lurch to the left with the Leap Manifesto or are they going to move back toward, maybe not the centre, but something a little more traditional with people like Rachel Notley," he said.
"It's not clear where they're headed… there's a lot of question marks and not a lot of answers at this time."
Chow, who was married to Jack Layton, the late NDP leader who carried the party to Official Opposition status in 2011, says the NDP is now looking for a new leader who can communicate a clear vision, and connect with Canadians.
'There are a lot of very talented people out there," she said. "There will be leaders that will emerge. But I think it's a time now to thank Tom for everything he's done."
Chow, who stepped down as an NDP MP in 2014 to make a run in Toronto's mayoral race, said she hasn't "even begun" to think about a bid for the NDP's top post.
"I haven't even begun to think about it. There are so many much better leaders out there than me.”