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article imageOp-Ed: Some NDP members critical of Mulcair as federal leader

By Ken Hanly     Jan 11, 2016 in Politics
Ottawa - In the 2015 election it looked for a while as if the New Democratic Party (NDP) could possibly defeat the ruling Conservatives and govern Canada for the first time in history.
It was not to be. Voters turned to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals rather than Tom Mulcair and the NDP. The New Democrats were reduced to third party status and their representation in Atlantic Canada was wiped out. They ended up with just 44 seats in parliament. After the initial shock, the party officials tended to put a positive spin on what happened, noting the NDP still had the second-best showing ever at the federal level.
Some on the left in the party saw the huge loss as a result of the party moving to the right on many issues, even to the point of trying to match the Conservatives by promising a balanced budget at a time when the economy was still in the doldrums. The Liberals, on the other hand, did not fear barbs about being big spenders when they were promising jobs, and economic growth. A recent poll at the left-leaning website Rabble as of this writing shows 74 percent do not want Mulcair to remain as leader while only 26 percent favor him staying on. No doubt this poll will slant towards the views of those on the left in the NDP, but still it shows that there is considerable unhappiness with the NDP leadership.
Very few elected NDP MPs have spoken out to criticize Mulcair but one who has in Ontario is MPP Cheri DiNovo, who represents Parkdale-High Park in Toronto. She is only one of two NDP representatives remaining in Toronto after the Liberal sweep in the October 19 election last year. While there were numerous other factors than Mulcair's leadership that contributed to the disastrous NDP loss of more than half the seats they held at dissolution, critics see Mulcair as responsible for quite a bit of the rout.
Naturally party officials put a positive spin on what happened as mentioned earlier. Officials also point out that the NDP maintained a significant presence in Quebec with 16 seats. Finally, the establishment within the NDP can point out that there is no obvious successor to Mulcair. When Mulcair faces a leadership review in April he will probably pass with flying colors as few will want to rock the boat. If the Ontario NDP leadership review is any precedent, Mulcair need not worry.
In the Ontario provincial campaign in 2014 the party lost its role of holding the balance of power as the Liberals gained a majority and they lost three seats in Toronto. Nevertheless, delegates at the next provincial convention actually gave Horwath's leadership a higher approval vote than they had at the previous convention prior to the election!
Dinovo claims the NDP did badly in October in large part because it had abandoned any commitment to social democracy. However, this is hardly anything new for the NDP which has been trying to broaden its base by moving to the middle for some time and adopting some of the same strategies as the Labour and Social Democratic parties in Europe the so-called third way: In politics, the Third Way is a position akin to centrism that tries to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a varying synthesis of right-wing economic and left-wing social policies
In the UK, Tony Blair adopted a type of third way moving the Labor party away from a more traditional socialist viewpoint. The Third Way rejects the whole idea of the necessity to replace capitalism by socialism. Socialism becomes a type of ethical doctrine designed to reform capitalism to create a more humane system.
The NDP no longer talks about increasing the size of the public sector and using it to pursue social ends rather than profit. DiNovo takes Mulcair's emphasis upon a balanced budget and fiscal sobriety as attempting to show a responsible approach to the economy and to indicate he was a centrist. Actually it put him to the right of Trudeau. DiNovo rightly notes that removing of Mulcair will not in itself be any solution to the problems of the NDP. Those in the central apparatus of the party must be ready to engage in self-criticism rather than simply seeking power and supporting the status quo. As DiNovo put it: “We’re no longer new. We’re certainly not democratic. And no one is having a party anywhere.” Di Novo notes that in the US Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist. While I have grave doubts about Sanders' roles and some of his policies it does show that ideas more on the left than those of the NDP are gaining popularity. The same is true of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party who also calls himself a democratic socialist. Unless the NDP can show itself as a significant leftist alternative to the Liberals, it will become even weaker and less relevant. Of course becoming more leftist may not result in electoral victory at the federal level but it may influence Conservative or Liberal governments to try and prevent migration of voters to the party by adopting more progressive policies than they would otherwise.
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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