We need to talk about Thomas

People are talking about the NDP’s Leadership Review, what’s missing?

We’ve heard a lot of talk and read a lot of things about the upcoming Confidence Vote on Tom Mulcair’s Leadership of Canada’s New Democrats. There has been a lot of reading into what the NDP’s Caucus and regional membership have said and what their meaning is with their public assertions.

The story as we know it so far…

One of the key overlooked things in the coverage of the Leadership vote, this isn’t just an audit of the Leader, it’s an audit of the leadership throughout the party. The Campaign, Caucus and Party staff are choices made by the Leadership of the party. A lot of members may be indifferent about Tom as a leader and feel like party (the leader and senior staff collectively) may not be hearing the membership. That’s the story behind the vote coming in Edmonton.

A lot of the discontent heard from other members isn’t specific to Tom Mulcair. It’s specific to the choices in the campaign and the leadership as a whole, during the campaign. That campaign and the bad choices are being perceived as a trust, that had been broken with the party.

The socialist caucus is an unofficial and unsanctioned minority group of members that raise beefs during conventions… That’s what they do, everytime. In 2011 and 2013, they raised a stink about the preamble language in the Party’s constitution. Their criticism of Andrea Horwath, Jack Layton and now Thomas Mulcair is duly noted. They are not even remotely representative of the opinions of the majority of #NDP Members and pending delegates.

Most of these political “figures” that sprint for the microphone to name drop Mulcair as the issue are self-interested, self-promoters that have long lost the plot. They’re angry ideologues that don’t and haven’t played nice with others.

Dissatisfied members outside those small circles are disappointed with the Party leadership and the campaign. And justly, the question that the NDP have going forward, isn’t about Tom Mulcair, it’s about the future opposition and the path the party wants to take in a path to forming a future government. And, members justifiably are feeling uncertain now, because the Liberals were able to capitalize on the “change” vote that the #NDP were holding throughout most polls headed into the election. And now, the opponent isn’t an impersonal ideologue like Stephen Harper. It’s a “Celebrity” personality that is putting a “kind” face on public policy. The Liberals under Justin Trudeau, like McGuinty and Wynne in Ontario a prone to dishonesty and use “likability” to sell their credentials. The Ontario Liberals have campaigned on large promises to distract from their own issues with patronage and ethics. Then in Government have neglected to fulfill those promises.

The Liberal Legacy in Ontario, Part One: 
“The squeaky wheels”

The Liberal Legacy in Ontario, Part Two: 
“The Morning After”

The larger issue is, that the Liberals create a lot media noise simultaneously, it becomes hard to decipher what is superficial and what is important. The Trudeau Liberals are built on this same model. A model that had kept Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath out of the Office of the Premier and a Model that turned a Minority Government to a Majority Government in just two years. A model that has managed to avoid accountability in some extremely pervasive and large scale spending and ethics scandals.

The Liberal Legacy in Ontario, Part Three: 
“Ambiguous Spending Initiatives and the Results of…”

It’s safe to say now, that the Harper Conservatives were not teflon. The closed style of their government didn’t help them when faced with opponents that were able to craft more successful sales pitches. The Trudeau Liberals are nothing like the Ignatieff or Dion lead Liberals. They’ve cultivated a smart campaign team from their Nova Scotia and Ontario cousins. The Conservatives are still very much in a tail spin right now. And it’s tough to say that the next leader of the Conservatives will be able to compete with the Trudeau Liberals. Stephen Harper’s “brand” is still very present in their messaging and the voice of that government will echo into the next election and it is something that their next leader may not be able to overcome.

Every Conservative in Whoville 
are still without the plot

New Democrats however, have a different issue. Beating the Liberals doesn’t solely rely on being more publicly “progressive,” but more publicly capable in distilling the faults and failures of Justin Trudeau and this Liberal Government. Members and Delegates in Edmonton will be voting on wether or not they feel that Tom Mulcair is the leader of THAT NDP and his staff are capable of getting the NDP to forming government. The other main issue Mulcair has going into Edmonton is about his “brand” or “Persona.” He was perceived as a “middle of the road” or “Third Way” candidate by the party during the 2012 Leadership race and that was a brand that the party spent time in nurturing throughout their mission to familiarize Canadians with Mulcair.

The NDP’s Identity Crisis 
in the Shadow of a 
“Progressive” Liberal Government

The broader issue about the NDP’s ongoing “losing steam to the Liberals” media narrative could be circumvented with stronger NDP messaging about the lack of revenue growth in the Liberals first budget. Not just trying to highlight that their spending commitments are vague… More attacking the point that the Liberal Budget spends into deficit without address “fairness,” as a whole.

Part of the draw to Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, the two Progressive Political figure heads that so many party insiders and pundits like to reference when critiquing the NDP’s 2015 Campaign, are how they message framing is specifically about “fairness.” Both leaders speak candidly about the greed and corruption that have overtaken “Conservative/Republican” movements, the markets as a whole and “big banks.” They’re pivoting their messaging around the need for accountability and reform. This is part of a huge oversight by New Democrats in not only their criticism of the Liberals, but in distilling their own message and their own ideas. It’s one thing to have one-off comments of “who is this benefitting?” But, it is another completely to anchor your message in citing the obvious culture of greed and arrogance that infects our country as well.

Desperately Seeking a Bernie

The NDP is at its absolute best, when it is antagonizing the status quo. The Liberals are party that by their own design, insulate those “status quo” interests. It’s in that weakness that the NDP has traditionally found its strengths. How the past leaders defined and shaped their message. How they’re remembered not only by the party-base, but in the our own legislative history.

Where’s the Beef?

With all said… In Edmonton, look for the party to try and marry the policies and opinions of Mulcair to the legacy of New Democrat leaders and the values the party has historically represented. Look for Tom’s speech to be a throwback in it’s tone. Connecting CCF/NDP language to the “Mulcair” era. Look for them to talk specifically about the Federal Minimum Wage policy, the Childcare and National Pharmacare policies as representative of the Party’s messages that were core values that just didn’t connect. Look for speeches from Party elders, past and present that will attempt to join the Mulcair era to the CCF/NDP History. A lot of name-dropping legacy MP’s and Leaders, like David Lewis, Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles. Prairie talk, referencing the Winnipeg General Strike, and contemporary Prairie issues like the Liberals reneging on re-forming the Canadian Wheat Board. A lot of references to the CCF and NDP in Saskatchewan, Roy Romanow, Allan Blakeny and of course Tommy Douglas. The tone of all the materials will also be confessional, perhaps even a direct look look into the disappointment behind the 2015 campaign and a more human reaction from Tom Mulcair about his and his teams failure to make gains or capitalize on those “winds of change” that swept Canada and could have swept Mulcair’s NDP into Government.

That last question is, will delegates care to hear the concessional deliberations or all the pomp and fodder of legacies?

National News Rodeo Round-Ups 
on Tom Mulcair’s NDP Crisis

These folk, talking about Thomas

CBC’s “At Issue” Panel on Mulcair