Almost a full year after last May’s federal elections, which saw the NDP grab the title of Official Opposition and also the unfortunate death of coveted leader Jack Layton, the party seems to have taken a step forward in their effort to take down the Tory government by electing Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair after an unprecedented 4th ballot. After surpassing previous frontrunner Brian Topp, who was personally chosen by Layton as his preferred successor, it appears as if the New Democrats have decided to take a different route.
Many attribute the choice of Mulcair as NDP chief to be a no-brainer, for he served as deputy leader under Layton, and was widely seen as the reason for the NDP’s success in Quebec. Unbeknownst to some, he served as the Quebec Liberal Party’s minister of sustainability, and was the first NDP MP to be elected in Quebec, overtaking the coveted riding of Outremont from the Liberal candidate in the 2008 federal election. Even still, some of his critics point out his quick temper in debates and fear that he is a modernizer bent on moving the traditional social-democratic vision of the New Democrats to the center. With his new leadership role, will Muclair be able to resolve some of the questions surrounding him, and more importantly, will the NDP finally win over Canadians as a viable governing party?
Since the Tories gained their majority in last year’s federal election, leaving the Liberals and Bloc in shambles, many Canadians were unpleasantly surprised to find out that civilized debate in the House of Commons had not improved from the previous session. Legislation, such as the Crime Bill and Copyright Bill, has set off a firestorm of heated discussion. More recently, polls have shown that the Harper Government’s debacles over the F-35’s, the return of the abortion debate and the recurring robocall nightmare have taken a toll on their popularity. Today, Canadians ponder whether they elected a government devoted to fiscal responsibility or one concerned with its own ideological agenda. As the Tories struggle with accountability, a new NDP ad featuring Mulcair with the late leader’s wife and MP, Olivia Chow has resolved the essential question over continuing “Jack vision”, while also outlining his goals in a bid to sway Canadians to join the Orange wave. Interestingly, it appears as if Mulcair has taken a lesson from past opposition Liberal leaders when dealing with the Conservative tactics, using the ad to define himself before the Tories have the chance to define him to Canadians. Furthermore, recent polls have shown that a growing number of Canadians are looking to Mulcair as a potential alternative to the Harper’s Tories, as evident with growing support in British Columbia and Ontario. The question now turns to whether Mulcair can turn this discontent into NDP support?
Irrespective of the fact that the next federal election is over three years away, Mulcair has a serious challenge ahead in trying to assure Canadians of his, and his party’s, viability in governance, which includes a unrelenting vigilance in hopes of gaining support from disaffected moderate Tory voters and continued battles with third-party Liberals over the left-wing vote. Apart from the oncoming ideological battles in the next three years, Mulcair needs to ensure that he presents himself in a prime-ministerial manner, and his party as a viable governing alternative, while not losing touch with the concerns important to Canadians. When push comes to shove, short-term impressions and labelling can have damaging effects to a political brand, despite the policies and principles a particular party professes. It’s now up to Mulcair to make positive short-term impressions into long lasting perceptions.
– Cody Levine
(Featured photo: Chargh )