New NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in for “rough ride”
By Norman Leach
On Saturday, the federal NDP replaced the late Jack Layton with Thomas Mulcair. Thank goodness for Canada.
For the record there is no love lost between myself and the NDP. I grew up in rural Saskatchewan when the NDP held power and devastated the economy of that province for years. In fact, I am what I call a true Albertan. I left Saskatchewan as soon as I turned 18 and came here looking for work (via Manitoba).
That said, the federal NDP had the real deal in Jack Layton. He was charismatic (and in a certain light a handsome guy) and a true champion of NDP values. He was married to a visible minority (as am I), grew up in Quebec so spoke French well, lived in Toronto in the heart of the unionized factories that produced so much wealth and volunteer time for the NDP and he was articulate – Jack could tell a story.
In the 2011 elections Jack parlayed all of his strengths – and luck (both the Bloc Quebecois and the Federal Liberals were in crisis) into the NDP’s largest electoral victory ever.
Mulcair has been elected by the NDP to fill some very large shoes. The question is – is he up to it?
The NDP (and Jack) have said for years that the future of the party is in its youth, New Canadians, women, the working people of Canada and winning new seats in the west.
So what did the party do on Saturday? The youth representative Niki Ashton was gone in the first ballet as was the New Canadian representative Martin Singh, the last female option Peggy Nash gone in the second ballet, gone in the problem plagued third ballet was Nathan Cullen who was the last man standing from the west and finally the most traditional of the candidates Brian Topp fell.
Who was left? Thomas Mulcair – the recycled Liberal cabinet minister who is white, male, 57 years old, and a lawyer from Quebec. I guess if you are setting the bar you might as well set it really high. Mulcair fashions himself a fighter. He might want to take some lessons from the Mixed Martial Arts people – his first fights will be no-holds barred within his own party just to hold it all together.
So as Mulcair settles into Stornoway, the house of the Leader of the Official Opposition, he should enjoy the short honeymoon he is going to get. The real battle is just about to begin.
Norman Leach is the President of Norman Leach & Associates – a Calgary based consulting firm that opens new markets for companies expanding beyond their own borders. He is an author, columnist and University lecturer.