NDP rejects Mulcair as leader, votes in support of holding leadership race

NDP rejects Mulcair, votes to seek new leader

Tom Mulcair will not stay on as leader of the federal NDP.

EDMONTON — Rank-and-file New Democrats handed Tom Mulcair another ballot-box drubbing Sunday, voting to replace him as leader less than six months after a devastating election loss that dashed the party’s dream of forming Canada’s first federal NDP government.

A stunned silence fell over the convention floor at Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre as delegates realized that not only had Mulcair not attained a respectable level of support, he hadn’t even reached the 50-per-cent threshold â€” unheard of in a federal leadership review.

As a result, the man who less than a year ago was being touted as poised to become Canada’s first-ever NDP prime minister instead became the first federal leader ever to be rejected by a majority of delegates — 52 per cent — at a party’s annual convention.

“The only thing that’s important is that we leave here united,” a calm, resigned-looking Mulcair told delegates after the vote.

Mulcair said he’ll remain as leader until his successor is chosen, within 24 months.

“The person who replaces me must have the absolute and complete support of 100 per cent of the members of the NDP.”

He thanked his wife and the delegates, and urged the party to come together around his successor, whomever that turns out to be.

“We will always be the party that dreams no small dreams,” Mulcair said. “We will always be the party that thinks about the little guy.”

A bare-minimum 50 per cent plus one vote would have been necessary for Mulcair to stay on, let alone have anywhere near enough support for a confident mandate — a threshold some had pegged at closer to 70 per cent.

It was clear during Mulcair’s speech that he didn’t have the support of everyone in the room. But when the results were announced, incredulity descended over the delegates as the magnitude of his loss began to sink in.

It was a far worse result for Mulcair than even his fiercest detractors might have expected, the culmination of a festering dispute over the NDP’s future direction in the wake of an election defeat that robbed the party of more than half its seats and the spiritual core of its caucus.

“I’m saddened by the result, but we live in a democratic system, we have a democratic party,” said British Columbia MP Peter Julian.

“I think we were surprised and saddened, there’s no doubt. There were tears, but we are very proud of what is fundamentally a democratic party … the delegates made up their minds. Everyone respects that.”

The party’s fundamentals remain strong, Julian added.

“Remember, this is a caucus and a party that lost our leader Jack Layton. I came into politics because of Jack Layton,” he said, referring to Mulcair’s predecessor, who died from cancer just months after leading the party in 2011 to official Opposition status for the first time in history.

“We have gone through what, in many other parties, would be extraordinarily difficult situations. In our party, we have a resilience so we get back to work. We went through the election result, we got back to work.”

Julian — a Mulcair backer who praised his leader’s resilience in doing battle with former prime minister Stephen Harper — was asked whether he’d be interested in taking over for Mulcair. It’s too early for that conversation, he said flatly.

A peculiar combination of sadness and relief seemed to emanate from the party’s caucus in the wake of the vote.

MPs who spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity, fearing the consequences of speaking out publicly, said they would have preferred to see Mulcair step down immediately following the election.

One even called it “ridiculous” that he’s staying on as interim leader despite the clear message delegates sent Sunday.

Mulcair’s fate wasn’t necessarily sealed before the convention got under way, northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus seemed to suggest.

“I think when we got to the convention, what was really noticeable was the energy and enthusiasm among the delegates and I think it was possible to channel that energy,” Angus said.

“Tom wasn’t really present for a lot of the convention; people didn’t see him. There was not that sort of interaction. I think New Democrats wanted to be reassured, and they say, ‘Tom’s our guy, we’re over what happened last fall, but where are we going in 2019,’ and that doesn’t just happen from a fiery stump speech.”

Angus said it was a very emotional scene when Mulcair shared the results with caucus members.

“A lot of people were crying. We’re very close as a party … you spend a lot of time with someone, you’re part (of) them.”

Prior to Sunday’s vote, Mulcair made one last pitch to the New Democrat faithful to allow him to stay on as leader, urging rank-and-file members to stand with him.

In a speech some observers characterized as uninspired at times and passionate at others, Mulcair said he has accepted the blame for the mistakes of last year’s disappointing election campaign, but insisted he is re-energized, reinspired and re-engaged after six months of meeting grassroots supporters.

“We made mistakes that cost us a victory in October, and for that I take responsibility,” Mulcair said.

“I share your deep disappointment in the election results. That’s why we’ve held unvarnished debrief sessions across the country — to understand what went wrong, what mistakes were made, and how we can apply those lessons going forward.”

The speech also steered largely clear of some of the sore spots that have endangered his status as leader.

In particular, Mulcair made no mention of the so-called “Leap Manifesto,” a proposed policy pivot from the left-most factions of the party who want to see the NDP embrace some more drastic measures to combat climate change and aboriginal issues, among others.

Prior to Mulcair’s speech, delegates voted to adopt a motion to debate the manifesto’s ideas and proposals, including some classic left-wing proposals: a move away from fossil fuels, no new pipelines, higher corporate taxes and spending less on the military.

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 test tube. (Contributed)
test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health launches online booking for COVID-19 tests

Testing is available to anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms

Blotter bug
Updated: Highway 1 open near Revelstoke after morning crash

DriveBC says to watch for traffic congestion

The City of Revelstoke has launched a community well-being survey. (Contributed)
City launches community well-being survey

Everyone residing in Revelstoke aged 12 and over is invited to complete it

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Steven Stuart Gardner has been charged with possession of a firearm contrary to an order and possession of a firearm without a licence. He has also been charged, under the Motor Vehicle Act, with driving while prohibited. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Car connected to shooting, dumped in Chase leads to unrelated arrest

Investigation of Kamloops shooting leads police to a rural Chase property

Volunteer registered nurse Stephanie Hamilton recieves a swab from a driver as she works at a Covid-19 testing site in the parking lot at Everett Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
13 more COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

There are 624 cases in the region since the start of the pandemic

The body of Natsumi Kogawa, 30, was found in the Gabriola Mansion on Davie Street, Vancouver, in September 2016. Vernon man William Schneider, who was found guilty of second-degree murder, now awaits the decision of his appeal hearing Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (Vancouver Police Department photo)
No decision yet for Vernon man appealing murder sentence

William Victor Schneider was convicted in relation to Natsumi Kowaga’s death in 2016

Vernon once again boasts the lowest gas prices in B.C. Oct. 20, 2020. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
North Okanagan boasts lowest gas prices in B.C.

Gas going up, and down, in Vernon specifically

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 confirmed at Kelowna Francophone school

École de L’Anse-au-sable is not affiliated with local SD23

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP received footage of a suspect vehicle littering hate flyers around 21st Avenue in Vernon Oct. 17, 2020. (RCMP)
WATCH: Footage offers lead in hate-fuelled flyer probe: Vernon Mounties

Vernon police received footage of an older model green truck distributing flyers in the early morning hours Saturday

Most Read