04.11.2016 10:43 AM

In this week’s Hill Times: the NDP gives the rest of us a lesson in brutality and betrayal

Spare a thought, this morning, for Tom Mulcair.

Before Sunday, no one – not even the NDP leader – knew his fate. Before Sunday, before New Democrats brutally passed judgment on Mulcair’s leadership at their weekend gathering in Edmonton, no one knew what to expect.

But 52 per cent? And here I thought Liberals were vicious.

The assembled Dippers having summarily dismissed Mulcair, they now collectively face the prospect of a leadership race that will be divisive (at a time when they clearly need to unite) and expensive (at a time when the bottom has fully fallen out of their fundraising efforts). They are leaderless, and they have no obvious successor to Mulcair.

But they probably had no choice. If the NDP had decided to keep Mulcair around, he would have no longer been Angry Tom: he would have become Wounded Tom, bleeding all over the place, like in Polanski’s Macbeth. The mutineers would have continued their mutiny, meanwhile, and the media would have continued to delightedly document the ongoing rebellion – because, as is well-known, those of us in the media see our role as coming down from the hills to shoot the wounded.

Either way, it was going to be messy. Flush him, and end up leaderless, penniless and directionless. Keep him around, and it’s Mulcair as Julius Caesar – with Peggy Nash, the Canadian Labour Congress and some young Quebec New Democrats swapping the role of Brutus.

Having been through a decade or so of Liberal Party leadership wars, with myriad scars to show for it, let me offer my socialist pals three sage pieces of advice. As they sit and contemplate their future, this cold April morn, they need to reflect on certain hard truths. Here goes.

One, Tom Mulcair made some mistakes, sure. He embraced the losing electoral strategy of Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow: he moved to the ideological Right. On deficits, on defence, on virtually any issue, the New Democrat leader didn’t sound like a traditional New Democrat. In his mad dash to get to the centre, he left behind his bewildered NDP voters, who accordingly wandered over to the more-progressive Trudeau Liberals.

But, guess what, NDP caucus, and NDP candidates and NDP core? You enthusiastically applauded all that, every step of the way. You didn’t say a word – not a single word – objecting to any of it when you could have. You, like Mulcair, had witnessed Rachel Notley’s rush to the centre, and her resulting historic victory. And you figured you could do the same thing federally. You figured wrong.

So, did Tom Mulcair snatch defeat from the proverbial jaws of victory? For sure. But so did you, Team Orange. So did you. Your fingerprints are all over the crime scene, too.

Second piece of advice: as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, when you strike at the King, you must kill him. On Sunday, the NDP did that.

To succeed, half-measures won’t ever do. You can’t do what Nash, the CLC et al. were doing, which was try and nibble their beleaguered leader to death, like a gaggle of geese. If you decide to execute the monarch, get everyone onside, then swiftly march the King out to the village square and straight to the gallows. Don’t hesitate or prevaricate.

And, per Emerson, make sure you do the job right the first time. In Edmonton – to everyone’s shock – the peace-loving New Democrats did that.

Jean Chretien, who I proudly served (and arguably still do), is one tough SOB. Get in his way, and you’ll get the Shawinigan Handshake. Way back when the Martin mutineers were gathering out at shabby hotels near Toronto’s airport, secretly plotting to overturn the election result and replace the man who millions of Canadians had just handed a big majority, they forgot one key fact: Jean Chretien doesn’t respond well to threats.

If the Martinettes had been respectful, and given my boss the time he deserved to make an exit on his own terms, he would have departed sooner than later. But, instead, they disrespected him – and he gave them the Shawinigan Handshake. Their leadership reviews and Gomery Commissions and anonymous leaks came to the naught. Chretien took much longer to leave than he’d planned, and the Martin-led Liberal Party would promptly commence a decade in the wilderness.

And therein lies the third piece of advice, Dipper friends: when you start down this path – with the recriminations, and the bitterness and the finger-pointing and blame-shifting – you usually end up with a plateful of cold ashes and bad memories. Generally, all this infighting leaves voters asking one simple and salient question: if they can’t manage their own affairs, how can I trust them to manage the country?

As he contemplates retirement this morning, spare a thought, then, for Tom Mulcair.

With the outcome of the vote in Edmonton, he has obviously lost.

But the New Democrat mutineers have lost, too.  They just don’t know it yet.

44 Comments

  1. davie says:

    After the Liberals were reduced to 30 something seats in 2011, a strength they found was in Bob Rae. His parliamentary skill and grace held the Liberals in a good place until they chose a new leader.
    It will be interesting watching to see whether Mulcair can do the same for the NDP.

    • Matt says:

      I wonder if ol’ Bob is digging into his closet this morning looking for his NDP orange ties and pocket squares.

      Stranger things have happened.

  2. Captcha says:

    Sorry WK, think you got this one wrong. The only one to blame for dumping Mulcair yesterday they way they did it, is Mulcair. And not because of policy positions or campaign strategies. But because of his own arrogance and stubbornness. These days, most leaders know when to make a graceful exit–Mulcair’s chance was on election night. He chose not to do that (as 2 other leaders were smart enough to do that night), so what did he expect? He forced his party’s hand.

    No betrayal, no “et tu, Brute” moment here. More like a “seriously? You’re gonna make us do this? Well, okay, here is the brick to hit you over the head if you need it.”

    Any leader who is so out of touch with their own party membership that they don’t know that no where near %70 don’t want you, lost “leadership” a long time ago.

  3. doconnor says:

    I believe it will be less divisive then the Liberals, because the debate is over policy, not personality.

  4. Greyapple says:

    I think the NDP can overcome the bitterness of ousting Mulcair as leader easily enough. Get someone who both camps can admire, with little blood on his/her hands (ie. Meghan Leslie or Paul Dewar), and the wounds can be mended in time, certainly by 2019.

    More troubling for the future is their flirtation with the “Leap Manifesto.” Sure, many Canadians claim to be progressive, but there is a strong streak of fiscal conservatism in most, and this document is far further to the left than most voters would be willing to go.

    For a party that purports to be the party of working people, adopting it would be an astronomically bad move. Workers in the energy sector, auto manufacturing, or any other that depends upon fossil fuels would never support a party that pledges to destroy their livelihoods, and middle class progressive voters would not vote for economic vandals. Already, without even being formally adopted, it risks causing a schism with the Alberta NDP, and rightly so in my opinion. http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-ndp-leap-manifesto-anger-1.3529980

    It’s electoral poison. Unless the party is content to be a niche party for “downtown” champagne socialists, naive campus radicals, and aging hippies, they would do well to toss it aside or water it down to a more palatable form.

    • BlueGritr says:

      Keep an eye on Alexandre Boulerice. Strong in the House. A formidable campaigner. Won’t be long before he’s mentioned in the same breath as Leslie, Dewar, and Niki Ashton.

      • Greyapple says:

        Indeed, a Quebec may be needed to ensure that they don’t sink into complete oblivion in that province next election.

        • Greyapple says:

          Make that a “Quebec leader” may be needed.

          • Marc-André Chiasson says:

            Sure, another bearded Quebec politician, this one from the far left wing of the party who has intimate ties to that province’s unions. Boulerice may be a smart guy but he’s one, nonetheless, who criticizes Canada’s role in WWI calling it “…a purely capitalist war on the backs of the workers and peasants.” In that, he is in good stead with groups like the Socialist Party of Great Britain which advocates that “The only end to war is the end of capitalism—the socialist revolution.” C’est tout dont le NPD a besoin!

      • Matt says:

        CTV mentioned him last night along with Ashton, Nathan Cullen and Peter Julian.

        Personally Ashton, Cullen and the others who ran to replace Layton would be terrible choices. I mean hell, they lost to the guy that just got dumped.

      • davie says:

        I agree,,,he is another one that I would pitch in for. He has been a great MP.

      • Vancouverois says:

        Voted for Quebec to separate from Canada in the 1995 Referendum. Known to have donated money to Québec Solidaire, an avowedly separatist provincial party whose former leader Amir Khadir once tried to introduce a motion to praise the recently-deceased separatist terrorist murdered Paul Rose. Harshly criticized commemorations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

        • terence quinn says:

          He fits right in then. They catered to separatists and with their 50 plus one theory on separation he doesn’t have a chance.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Terence,

            I doubt we will ever hold another referendum here in Quebec, but if we do, it will be based on 50% + 1. The sovereignists aren’t fools — they watched Scotland and will likely opt for the Cameron model. If they do, the Clarity Act and the SCC reference become moot.

          • Vancouverois says:

            No, Ronald, it won’t.

            It isn’t up to the separatists to dictate the terms of the next referendum, no matter what they and the NDP may claim.

      • smelter rat says:

        Agree on Boulderice. And if they go for Ashton, they will be in the wilderness for decades.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          Vancouverois,

          Are you arguing that what Cameron did was illegitimate? He accepted 50% + 1 as a trade off, precisely because the referendum question was agreed upon previously by London and Edinburgh. That type of template could happen here.

          • Vancouverois says:

            (You replied to the wrong comment.)

            The Parliament of the UK was entitled to declare the referendum result it required to negotiate separation of Scotland from the UK; the Parliament of Canada is entitled to declare the referendum result it requires to negotiate the separation of parts of Quebec from Canada. Cameron deciding (very foolishly) that 50%+1 was enough in Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014 has no bearing on, and sets no precedent for, any future referenda held in Canada. And it wouldn’t even if the situations of Scotland and Quebec were comparable – which they are not.

            It was, however, treacherous and irresponsible for Cameron to accept 50%+1 as enough. It seems that, like the Liberals in 1995, he decided to let it slide because he arrogantly thought there was no danger the other side would get anywhere near that level anyway. However, it should be damned clear to anyone with a lick of sense that you can’t launch an independent country when half of its inhabitants are against the project, and it’s a betrayal to everyone pretend otherwise – no matter how clear the question is.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Vancouverois,

            (I’ve run out of Reply buttons. LOL.)

            I find your last sentence persuasive but would suggest the following: imagine if the federal political actors (government) declared that 66% — or 75% was the threshold for negotiations on independence. Then imagine that the sovereignists missed the mark by a few percentage points. The feds would then refuse to negotiate and Quebec would respond with a UDI.

            Imagine your choice if you are PM in Ottawa. Do you let us go or do you prepare for civil war in Quebec to keep us in the federation by force? If I’m the pretend PM, I would rather let Quebec go than resort to violence on a massive scale in this province. What about you?

          • Vancouverois says:

            Then you would be making the wrong choice. The Prime Minister has an obligation to stand up for the rule of law, even when it’s hard.

            Even those who voted Yes in that scenario would be voting yes to a negotiated separation, not to the chaos and destruction of an illegal UDI. So of course I would stand up for the rule of law, and protect the rights of loyal Canadians against being kidnapped by an illegal separatist government. Even though it would be the worst period in our nation’s history, I’d have no choice. Shrugging my shoulders and letting them get away with it would be unthinkable.

            Even if the vote were 100% in favour of separation, it would have to be pursued legally, through negotiation. The Quebec government does not get to dictate the terms of separation, period. No matter what threats they make.

            Mind you, I’m all in favour of looking at the peaceful partition of Quebec. That might be a logical next step if the level of support were short of the 67-75% required to justify separation of the entire province overall, but high enough in identifiable areas. In fact, I think we should all reframe the debate to focus on that very option.

            It isn’t desirable, but it’s the least terrible of all the separation scenarios.

  5. Glen says:

    You really think HE moved to the ideological right? Perhaps he tried to take the party there – but maybe is wasn’t that big a move for him.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZzSSp7ag-A

  6. Mark says:

    I think most people understood that Mulcair was likely not to get the support from the membership in order to run in 2019 as leader, so this convention was simply deciding Mulcair’s immediate fate. If Mulcair stays on as interim leader than this whole convention was a complete waste of time seeing as how the end result is unchanged.

    I do love the schism this has caused between Alberta/Notley New Democrats and Toronto/Naomi Klein New Democrats. Unfortunately for individuals like Nathan Cullen who are tired of just being the conscience of Parliament, their prospects of achieving power at the federal level have been tanked for the foreseeable future.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether the ABNDP attempts to sever connections with its federal counterpart in order to distance itself from the Manifesto. Because like the Sherbrooke Declaration for the Liberals, the Leap Manifesto is a golden gift for the PCs and Wildrose provincially.

  7. PJH says:

    When Joe Clark was unceremoniously given the heave…..after sustaining months and months of covert attacks by his opponents…..the “mutineers” won bigtime, and it ended(for a time) the internecine warfare that had been a constant since the Diefenbaker years, and led to a renaissance of the PC Party.
    Who’s to say that it couldn’t happen with the NDP, if they choose a fresh faced vibrant leader, especially if Mr. Mulcair stays on, and graciously continues to work hard on behalf of the party, as Mr. Clark did.

  8. MississaugaPeter says:

    All that experience, and Mulcair was pathetic (third) in the debates.

    He tried to get the Conservative vote, instead of just maintaining Orange Liberals.

    Opposition since the election has been nowhere.

    No empathy for him whatsoever.

    Like hundreds of other NDPers who lost their jobs election night, he should have quit his.

    What did he expects those hundreds of suddenly unemployed NDPers to do (including 50+ MPs who were counting on a pension), disappear?

    • Francis says:

      Harsh, but true.

      Just because Dippers don’t have a history of turfing leader doesn’t mean Mulcair should have been absolved from a total catastrophe of a campaign.

      His debate performance was entirely his own and those debates were pivotal moments in the campaign. A lot dumb decisions compounded by weirdly restrained front runner campaign are all at Mulcair’s feet as leader.

      He may have been a good Opp. Leader for the past few years, but he floundered on the campaign trail and that ultimately cost the NDP a lot.

      He expected too much forgiveness from Team Orange. He obviously didn’t get it.

  9. ABB says:

    So in summary: it’s a well earned NDP clusterf*ck.

    Prime Minister Leitch in 2019.

  10. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Too bad you weren’t an observer in The Big E. It would have been glorious!

  11. Ridiculosity says:

    I’m no fan of Tom Mulcair. But, the man was fired on Sunday – in front of the entire country – and he dealt with it with a great deal of grace and élan. You don’t see that often.

  12. Steve T says:

    It’s funny how everyone here north of the border scoffs at the silly politics in the U.S., yet it is playing out with the NDP as we speak.

    This is a party who has decided to head back to wing-nut fringe status. First they trash the leader that tried to move them into the mainstream. Then they introduce the ridiculous Leap Manifesto, which one of their own has called “naive” and “tone deaf”:
    http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/notley-calls-leap-manifesto-naive-tone-deaf-1.2854174

    So, just like the Republicans in the U.S., the radical side of the party is calling the shots. Great to pander to your base, but it makes you virtually unelectable on a larger scale.

    • davie says:

      Liberal and Conservative acquaintances are showing such consternation over NDP’s decision to discuss the L–p Manifesto because Libs and Conservs are the only 2 parties qualified to govern anywhere, and they are not accustomed to the role of slanging others’ actions and ideas.
      As a leftie NDP supporter, I have, as usual, done the work that you can now claim as your own, and come up with your own ‘going forward’ paper – so that you can have something for which you can proactively advocate. (Conservatives, bluntly – Liberals, feint left, drivel right)
      As a special aid to Conservatives, I have used as few words as possible; and in honour of a recently retired Liberal MP from Montreal, I have enumerated the points. The points reverse each of the 15 points of the L–p Manifesto, and they are clear, affirmative Conservative and Liberal stands.

      The Tweedle Manifesto

      1. Ignore UNO Declaration on Indigenous Rights
      2. 100% power from fossil fuels by 2050
      3. All eggs in fossil fuel basket
      4. Centralize energy control
      5. Build for maximum energy use
      6. More pavement and more fossil fuel vehicles
      7. More fossil fuel jobs and cut renewable jobs
      8. Private insurance for climate and weather damage
      9. Centralized transnational control of agricultural land and food production
      10. More free trade treaties
      11. No foreigners
      12. Corporate board rooms set wages
      13. Austerity to incentivize self reliance
      14. Increase weapons and military investment
      15. Unlimited election campaign spending

      This bold, sunny agenda will certainly separate Liberals and Conservatives from fringe wing nuts – and those who are tone deaf and naive.

      • The Doctor says:

        My my, somebody has poopy pants today! I guess you’d have to point me to a Liberal or Tory government in our lifetime that’s had a “no foreigners” immigration policy. What I’ve seen is governments that have consistently had one the most liberal immigration policies in the world — and my friends who are immigration lawyers regularly point this out to me.

        I guess you think Rachel Notley’s a Conbot?

        • davie says:

          I am trying to remember which parties were in power when the good ships Komagata Maru and St Louis wanted to land their passengers.

      • Peter says:

        Nice deflection. But you forgot the bit about killing puppies. Cons openly hate puppies and Libs only pretend to love them.

      • Steve T says:

        Nice try, but opposition to the Leap Manifesto does not equal support for the polar opposite. This is a common tactic of the extreme ends of the political spectrum. On the right, it shows up as “if you aren’t for the war, you are for the terrorists!”. On the left, it shows up as “if you aren’t for 100% electricity from renewables in 20 years, then you are for 100% electricity from fossil fuels.” Both are ridiculous statements.

        The same can be said for pretty much every one of your condescending “Tweedle Manifesto” points. But carry on; this sort of attitude will ensure the NDP remain on the fringe for a long long time.

        By the way, anyone with an internet connection can see the real text of the Leap Manifesto: https://leapmanifesto.org/en/the-leap-manifesto/
        The Globe & Mail has summarized it here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/leap-manifesto-what-is-it-and-what-could-it-mean-for-the-ndpsfuture/article29583796/

        • The Doctor says:

          Very true, Steve — then there’s that variant that we often see on political comment boards: “If you’re not with Trudeau, you’re with Harper.” Even months after Harper ceased to be the leader of the opposition — or the leader of anything, for that matter.

        • davie says:

          Common tactic of Liberals and Conservatives: No, no, no, that’s not what we mean…

      • Peter says:

        Actually, davie, you sort of proved what one of your own, Rick Salutin, says the problem with Leap and the NDP left is.

        http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/04/08/flailing-mulcair-leads-the-ndp-to-the-crossroads-salutin.html

        • davie says:

          Thanks for the reference.

          During the election campaign, the L–p came out, with a number of names signed to it. The Green leader said it reflected the Green Party’s positions on the issues mentioned. Since then, a few more people have signed to the paper on line. So a few people are reading it and, at least, considering it as one way to address some major issues we face.
          The argument regarding jobs in a shift to renewables is that such a shift would create more jobs, and more stable jobs. Oil and gas patch workers make good dollars sometimes, and almost nothing at other times. It’s tough on families (I lived it.)
          The argument about free trade is that they are not really about trade and jobs, but rather about surrendering local democratic control to faceless foreign board offices.
          The rights of indigenous peoples is with us right now. (Early 1970’s I lived and worked on a reservation in Northern Manitoba where all the people saw outsiders like me come in and decide how things were to be done – in almost all sectors of life. The children saw their parents sidelined while we ran things.)
          I have long thought we would do well to have our provinces and feds get together on a land and food policy for our country (we could include water, as well). State owned corporations form other parts of the world are buying up a lot of agricultural land around this planet.
          Arguments have been made by a growing number of people regarding a guaranteed annual income. The 70’s programme in Dauphin area showed the positives that can come form such an initiative.
          I wish the L–p had mentioned nuclear weapons, but what it says on military spending is a good start.
          I’ll leave other L–p points for now…

          I think you referred me to the article to suggest that NDP is a party somewhat adrift. I think that using the L–p as a discussion paper the next 2 years will result in a 21st Century direction for this party of the left, and, if I’m around, I’ll look forward to what the membership produces at the 2018 convention.

  13. terence quinn says:

    Magic Tom has probably already sent out feelers to the Libs offering his services.

  14. Mulletaur says:

    I think it’s time for a ‘Draft Vegas’ movement. You in, Warren?

  15. e.a.f. says:

    Good Piece!

    What concerns me is, they didn’t have anyone in mind to replace him. Not a good thing to do. They may have hired him for the job. they may not have liked the results, but he wasn’t in it alone.

    Personally I never thought it was a good idea to get rid of the lead singer of the band if you hadn’t even started auditions.

    It would have been better to have kept this idiocy under control. the party may now wander in the wilderness for another 10 yrs just like when some “smart” guys decided it would be a good idea to have Broadbent retire. We saw how well that turned out. Here we go again.

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