Sunday, April 10, 2016

In Edmonton, the NDP take a Leap and then Give the Leader a Shove ... out the door

The final number is astounding even when you consider the anger, frustration and shock that the party felt last October when it was banished to third party status.

When it came to a final sense of closure for that spectacular drop in the polls of the fall of 2015, the NDP membership delivered their verdict through the question of the leadership of Thomas Mulcair.

A vote which only summoned up a tepid 48 per cent of votes in support for Mr. Muclair,  with a large and clearly motivated voting pool making the decision that the idea of Mr. Mulcair holding onto his job was something really not worth considering.

Heading into the vote, the consensus was that Tom Mulcair would need a 60 per cent plus total to at least have some hope for political survival, the announcement of vote total from the stage however indicated that the cold realization of the moment was that it was time for Tom to Go.

The stunning dismissal of their leader came following a weekend of policy discussion that clearly showcases the growing split in the party when it comes to any number of the usual NDP positions.

Sunday provided the final pivot point for a party that has seemed adrift since October, this weekend endorsing the concept of exploring the LEAP manifesto, a project that clearly didn't resonate much with NDP Premier Rachel Notley of Alberta (or many of Western Canada's NDP membership) but was strongly advocated by a large volume of NDP members from eastern Canada.

From that endorsement, a party that may not believe in the process of fracking, became a fractured political body, the labour side clearly on the decline when it comes to party influence, with a larger agenda than labour issues now on the rise and one seemingly ready to dominate the discussion into the future.

That growing divide raises a question for long time NDP members to sort out, that being if workers no longer have much sway in the formation of NDP base values, is the time now nigh for a truly Labour dedicated party for the country.

In recent years the NDP policy planning has been something that has tried to appeal to all, at times offering up an environmental focus that seems at odds with the desires of the workers in any number of industries.

A collective that now doesn't seem to fit the new guidelines from that side of the party structure. After three days of discussion, debate and division, it's hard to see how those on the labour side of the party can find much of a place at the table for the immediate future.

Should there no interest in forming a true party to reflect the realities of those in the labour movement, the events of this weekend may in the end turn those workers into free agents, something that could bode well for the Federal Liberal party.

As the October election results highlighted, the Liberals had successfully scooped up portions of the NDP's environment focus during the election campaign providing a home for some in the middle of the political spectrum to feel comfortable with.

If the Liberal's play their cards right moving forward, they could soon also portions of the now sidelined labour component of the NDP into their camp as well.

Where the NDP travels from this point will define what purpose that members believe their party should serve.

The shift from the weekend abandons the centre of the political spectrum to return to more familiar turf on the left, with it though, one wonders if they have forever abandoned any prospect of a return to their lofty position of but six months ago. They have fallen far from their status of opposition party and government in waiting as many had believed they were destined for.

As they leave Edmonton they now more resemble the party from the days where the NDP served the cause of a national conscience, there to remind the Liberals and the Conservatives that the NDP is still relevant to the national debate.

Whether they can hold onto any relevance however rests on how they try to bridge the very real divides that come out of the convention weekend.

A priority mission will be to not only re-connect with the large number of their own membership that has been pushed to the side, as well as to clear the muddled message that Canadians may have received from Edmonton this week, with many who may have tuned in at one point or another over the weekend more inclined to see a party that is now splintered beyond repair.

Through the weekend we kept a running archive of items we discovered that followed the path of convention and the drama that played out on Sunday morning, you can find that archive here.

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