B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan says he would have voted in favour of federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair staying on as leader. “I really was surprised at the severity of the response,” Horgan said on Monday, after Mulcair failed to win enough support to keep his job. Horgan did not attend the convention.
“I think very highly of Tom. He’s a very capable individual and he wanted the job. He and the federal NDP have a difficult hill to climb over the next number of years, and he was prepared to do some of the heavy work.”
New Democrat MPs returned to the House of Commons Monday after an emotional and divisive weekend that ended up costing Mulcair his job as leader.
Victoria MP Murray Rankin and Vancouver Island’s five other NDP MPs walked into the Edmonton convention on the weekend, having posted an open letter urging members to support Mulcair.
But in Sunday’s vote on a leadership review, Mulcair received only 48 per cent support — a number so low that it stunned the 1,768 delegates into silence. The party has given itself up to two years to select a new leader. Mulcair vowed to stay on until his successor is named.
“The membership has spoken,” Rankin said. “I don’t think it was any one factor that led to this result,” he added. “It’s clear that people think it’s time for a new leader. I am deeply grateful to Tom Mulcair for his leadership.”
Rankin said the party has to now move forward with its work in Parliament, selecting a new leader and building the party.
However, in addition to a potentially divisive leadership race, the party also has to contend with a very-apparent rift with Alberta’s NDP government.
The two sides battled over policy proposals of the “Leap Manifesto,” which calls for drastic action to combat climate change.
A leadership battle isn’t likely to make matters easier. Nor will the fact that Mulcair plans to remain as leader of the party until a successor is chosen, a decision that could be two years away.
Mulcair said he plans to continue to work on issues in Parliament for as long as necessary.
On Monday, Rankin was looking beyond the weekend divisiveness and to the future — keen to be back in Ottawa “to keep pushing the government on issues like offshore tax havens.” But the party faces other challenges, including the cost of a leadership race as candidates tap into the party’s fundraising sources for individual campaigns. Some New Democrats also worry the party won’t be able to raise money with Mulcair as a lame-duck leader.
At the convention, the party signalled it has yet to receive all of its filings from Elections Canada, but it is projecting a debt load of as much as $5 million, a legacy of last year’s 78-day election campaign.
The NDP’s executive council, its key decision-making team, met on Sunday to initiate a process to determine the steps that will set the wheels in motion for a leadership race.
“The membership’s desire for change and renewal has been heard,” national director party Karl Belanger said in a letter to supporters.
“In the months ahead, we will work tirelessly with you to renew, rebuild, and strengthen this great party of ours. This convention has shown that New Democrats are dynamic, energized, and strongly invested in renewal.”
On Wednesday, the caucus is expected to meet as usual, but they will have a lot more than usual to discuss.
Some members of caucus have quietly questioned whether it’s in the best interests of the party and the goal of moving forward to keep Mulcair at the helm until his successor is chosen.
There’s also the question of who will replace him and how soon hopefuls will organize their campaigns.
No one openly challenged Mulcair in the weeks before Sunday’s vote, but some of his leadership rivals from 2012, including Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, were pointed in their refusal to endorse his leadership.
Former Toronto MP Peggy Nash, another leadership contender four years ago, penned a scathing critique of the NDP’s election campaign ahead of the convention.
B.C.’s Nathan Cullen, who finished third in the 2012 leadership race, endorsed Mulcair and said he’s no longer interested in leading the party.
Peter Julian, a veteran B.C. MP, said the party is resilient and has faced adversity, including after October’s election result and the death of Jack Layton.
“Remember, this is a caucus and a party that lost our leader, Jack Layton,” he said.
“I came into politics because of Jack Layton. We have gone through what, in many other parties, would be extraordinarily difficult situations. In our party, we have a resilience so we get back to work.”
Julian didn’t say slam the door on the idea of running for the leadership, saying he hasn’t given it any thought as yet.
Former Halifax MP Megan Leslie said over the weekend that she has shut the door on a potential leadership bid.
And veteran NDP strategist Brian Topp, runner-up to Mulcair in 2012 and now chief of staff to Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley, ruled himself out Monday.
“I won’t be a candidate in the coming leadership race,” Topp said in posting to his Facebook page.
— With files from Canadian Press
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