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article imageOp-Ed: Canadian NDP — The best candidate to give the worst speech

By André R. Gignac     Mar 25, 2012 in Politics
Toronto - At this historic juncture, Thomas Mulcair was the best choice to lead the New Democratic Party of Canada, but that night, the worst choice for an acceptance speech.
On March 24, 2012, late in the day, it came down to this for New Democrats: either pursue the grooming of their party as a credible national alternative to the Conservatives, or return to a status of opposition movement bathing in the purity of its values. Members have chosen the party over the movement.
It took a long, and by moments agonizing, convention, four ballots and too many glitches, but in the end the front-runner finished first. And despite one of the worst speeches I have ever heard from a newly elected national leader, the choice of Thomas Mulcair as leader of the NDP was good news for the party.
New Democrats could have chosen Mulcair's rival, Brian Topp, a very good man, capable politician, excellent strategist and long-serving party member, but a candidate without a seat and a voice in Parliament, and not particularly well known by voters. On that single account, his would have been a somewhat hesitant leadership from which Liberals would have benefited, and his search for a seat, somewhere in Québec, would have slowed down the party's efforts in confronting Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. Instead of a "in-your-face" action against Conservatives, the NDP would have had to spend time, energy and money just trying to get its leader elected, and even that was far from being a done deal.
Canadian NDP convention floor
Canadian NDP convention floor
Now, the New Democratic Party of Canada has a strong leader, already sitting in Parliament, who will probably keep many seats in Québec in the next election, and a leader quite capable of a good fight with the Conservatives, ready to go as soon as Monday morning. He is also -- usually -- a good speaker who communicates well with the voters. Usually.
Because this Saturday evening, Thomas Mulcair won the leadership, but he sent someone else to claim the prize in his place. Members should have been in their right to expect a fiery speech on policy and on politics, a passionate appeal, a call to arms if you will. There was not much of that. They could have expected a speech that would have tried to immediately repair any lingering doubts or divisions, and some words directed at Canadian voters. They got none of that.
What they got instead was a professor accepting the annual golden apple award from his peers. After innumerable thank-yous to people from East to West, the new leader of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition did not "make" a speech, he simply "read" a speech, looking only rarely at his audience. On top of that, he seemed to want to get through that speech as if it was a shopping list he couldn't wait to finish and throw away.
It is quite possible that after such a long day, Mr. Mulcair was simply very tired. Let's hope that it was only that.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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