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Thursday, 7 January 2016

The Future of the NDP

It has now been a few unconfortable months since the federal election. In the time since, Trudeau has failed to remain outside the limelight for longer than few days. Whether it was the Paris Peace Conference, the arrival of Syrian refugees, or questions about his shoot with Vogue. As many outlets have addressed, Trudeau has stolen the show. But just what has this meant for the New Democrats?

On the morning after the election, I remember reading articles about the crushing defeat of the NDP. I can also recall reading heartfelt comments from and about longtime NDP members of parliament like Paul Dewar. The party was arguably even more surprised by its performance in 2015 than it was in 2011.

In the time since, Mulcair has retreated to shadows. We've become habituated to seeing Mulcair in parliament with his razor sharp questions for Harper. Now we are seeing a different show - with Rona Ambrose on the attack and Mulcair nowhere to be seen.

The question had been asked - if only for a short time - what happened to the NDP in the nearly three-month campaign. While the answer is unclear, this election was as much Trudeau's to win as it was Harper's or Mulcair's to lose.

At least some emphasis has to be placed on the fact that the Liberals escaped serious scrutiny by remaining in third place for some time. Moreover, when the tide did shift in their favour, it was just enough to gather that enthusiasm without a lot of the necessary questioning that comes afterward.

Mulcair, for his part, handled being in the lead poorly. This could have been for various reasons, but it is likely do to the fact that he has little charisma and was attempting too strongly to play to the centre.

In my view, it will continue to harm the NDP if these two items are not addressed. Jack Layton was someone who embodied the party's values and who didn't comprimise in order to win an election. It's a bit of an unfair comparison because Jack Layton was never in a position to win an election.

Mulcair is the product of a party with a conflicted purpose. Some New Democrats wanted to form governements; others were hoping to represent their social-democratic values.

This is, from my perspective, a case that will not continue to divide the NDP, but that will become more advanced as the party becomes more powerful. When our electoral system is reformed and the NDP invariably wins greater representation, there will be questions about what is more important - having principles or having a soap box.

For my part, Mulcair never appealed too much to me. When I ran for the party nomination in Kitchener-Centre, I redacted comments I had made about Mulcair for the sake of my campaign, but I know that many of my fellow New Democrats shared my concerns with leadership. Fortunately, talent runs deep in the NDP and the future of the party is certainly bright. I look forward to the next leadership convention.

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