We have reached the era in Canadian politics, where party leaders only get one kick at the electoral can. One and done. Win or move aside for the next person. Gone are the terms of serving in Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, sitting as the government in waiting. Right or wrong, opposition parties now spend the time between elections retooling for the next election, not being contrary to the government in power. The federal New Democrats lost, and lost big in the 2015 election. Now, with the party’s convention this weekend in Edmonton and a looming confidence vote, it’s time for leader Tom Mulcair to resign.
It’s better for Mulcair to resign now before the confidence vote than wait to be pushed out. Mulcair did well taking over the party after the death of Jack Layton, but squandered its lead in the polls once the election writ was dropped. The party went from first to third as party support collapsed in the later days of the 2015 campaign. Mired in the niqab debate and unable to gain traction, Mulcair looked effective as Stephen Harper in being the change people were hoping for. The soft progressive support went back to its natural home with the Liberals.
Mulcair has been a great parliamentarian and spirited debater during Question Period in the House of Commons. His ability to hammer at the Harper government on issues of policy were great political theater for wonks who watch this sort of thing. There was another party leader who was effective in this sort of manner, former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Great intellect, sharp mind, but unable to connect with the people.
Mulcair led the NDP to a campaign platform of a balanced budget with increased progressive spending. The electorate saw through that and wanted honesty. They voted in the Liberals who promised deficits and increased progressive spending. Unfortunately, the voters are getting higher than expected deficits and spending, but that doesn’t matter now.
Just as Ontario Progressive Conservative Leaders John Tory and Tim Hudak squandered a substantial lead on the ruling party to finish second. Thomas Mulcair squandered the optimism and legacy of the party of Jack Layton, setting it back 20 years. So close to the brass ring, yet so far. Now Thomas Mulcair enters the pantheon of also-rans in politics, taking his place alongside Robert Stanfield, Alexa McDonough, Michael Ignatieff and others.
What Mulcair should have done after seeing the results on election night, was resign right then and there. He didn’t and now the NDP have the convention to deal with. He should save the party members the expense of a leadership vote and resign now. Time to go, you’ve had your chance. Don’t let the cold door of politics hit you as you exit stage-left.