By Trevor Crawley, Black Press
When the federal NDP leadership vote came down, Wayne Stetski was just one of many who were shocked at the result.
The Kootenay-Columbia MP was backstage when the party delegates voted to punt Thomas Mulcair by a percentage vote of 52-48 that put the wheels in motion for a leadership race.
“Everybody was quite surprised,” said Stetski. “We were gathered in behind the main stage waiting for the results and you could sort of sense from the convention that there was a lot of interest in the debate and discussion and the decision, but no one really expected the percentage to be that high in looking for a leadership review.”
NDP members and delegates were in Edmonton this past weekend for a party convention to vote on resolutions and debate the future policy direction of the party.
With the loss of confidence in Mulcair’s leadership, the party gave themselves a two year window to select a new party head. Mulcair will stay on in the interim until a new leader is chosen.
Revelstoke NDP organizer Bill MacFarlane also expressed surprise at the results of the vote. “I guess it’s time to re-group and re-think about where to go in time for the next election,” he said, adding that he didn’t attend the convention.
Stetski noted that a leadership race will bring the NDP caucus closer together and praised Mulcair for his leadership of the party during the last six months as a newly elected parliamentarian.
“He has worked really, really hard to talk to members on what could’ve been done differently, what could’ve been done better,” Stetski said. “The [post-election] report was released at the convention highlighting some of the errors that were made and Tom took full responsibility for the results of the election, which was very noble of him because there are many factors that go into an election that you’re not successful in.”
In a statement following the vote, Karl Belanger, the NDP National Director, said that the party membership’s desire for change and renewal had been heard.
“In the months ahead, we will work tirelessly with our members to renew, rebuild, and strengthen this great party of ours,” Belanger said. “We want to thank Tom Mulcair for his tireless work on behalf of our party, and all Canadians.
“Millions of Canadians are counting on us to stand up to powerful interests and fight to even the odds for them. That’s exactly what we will do.”
Much has been said and written about the Leap Manifesto, a policy document written by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis—the son of NDP stalwart Stephen Lewis, the former leader of the Ontario NDP.
The manifesto proposes a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, no new infrastructure projects that increase extraction of non-renewable energy sources, and an ‘energy democracy,’ where energy sources are controlled by communities instead of private companies. Other policy proposals focus on introducing a universal guaranteed minimum income, rejecting any kind of austerity measures as a ‘fossilized form of thinking’ and generating revenue by ending fossil fuelled subsidies, increasing royalties on resource companies, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, among others.
Stetski noted that there is a public misconception that the Leap Manifesto is endorsed by the NDP, when in reality, the document is simply a set of polices and ideals to debate and discuss.
“The motion that was approved at the convention was to send the Leap Manifesto to every NDP riding around the country for discussion and debate, so it was not an outright endorsement of the Leap Manifesto because elements in that suggest that we need to be moving to renewable energy right now and not necessarily supporting the oil and gas and other forms of energy, which, in my mind, we absolutely need to get to a green and renewable energy future, but it does need to transition,” Stetski said. “The inclusion of the word ‘Leap’ suggests that we need to go right to some of those initiatives without transitioning and, in my mind, that’s just not realistic.”
Stetski, elected in one of the closest contests in the country during last October’s federal election, said he would not be seeking the NDP leadership.
“My focus is really on two things—still continuing to ensure I’m supporting the people of Kootenay-Columbia and also supporting my family,” he said. “Being a leader, you sacrifice a lot of both.”
MacFarlane said he didn’t have any thoughts about the next leader, though he said he did like Nathan Cullen, who finished second to Mulcair last time.
“I hope there’s somebody there that will meet everybody’s needs,” he said. “It’s going to have to be somebody that has a vision that takes us forward to the next election.”
With files from Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review