OTTAWA — NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has written a personal letter to supporters taking full responsibility for the dismal results of the October election campaign and saying he could have done better.
The note follows the release of an interim report from a post-mortem working group which says the campaign failed to resound with voters.
Mulcair, who has been peppered with questions about his own political future after the Oct. 19 vote, said the report provides a convincing summary of some of the specific lapses in the campaign's preparation and execution.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair leaves a press conference in Ottawa in January. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
"I agree with the overarching assessment that our campaign came up short," he said. "As leader, I take full responsibility for these shortcomings. I could have done a better job."
Rebecca Blaikie, the party's president who is leading the election post-mortem, told party faithful on Tuesday that many believe the NDP presented "cautious change" as opposed to "real change" that the Liberals claimed to offer.
They feel the campaign lacked a strong, simple narrative that made it more difficult to present a co-ordinated national campaign, she added.
A full report is expected to be released in March, just ahead of the party's April convention in Edmonton, where Mulcair will face a review to determine his future as leader.
"As leader, I take full responsibility for these shortcomings. I could have done a better job."
Mulcair maintains he is committed to staying at the helm and that he will make the changes needed to ensure the mistakes of the last campaign are never repeated.
As the party continues to soul-search, there are several thorny questions that need to be addressed.
For example, how did the party go into the election with its highest seat count in history, as well as richer coffers than ever before, and walk away with only 44 seats?
Too cautious, too afraid of mistakes
One concern is that the party spent far too much energy trying to avoid mistakes in the lead-up to the election, Mulcair said in his Wednesday letter.
"I believe this contributed directly to that sense of cautiousness that is referred to in the interim report," Mulcair said. "We must embrace a more proactive approach, one where caucus members are invited to initiate projects that help us reach out to the people we represent."
Mulcair also acknowledged the party's balanced budget pledge was a problem during the campaign — a change from a televised interview on Tuesday, in which he would not concede this was a mistake.
"We are addressing the important observation from the interim report that the campaign lacked an overarching narrative that could easily communicate our progressive proposals," he said. "This became apparent when our commitment to balancing the budget overshadowed our social democratic economic vision."
Despite the disappointment, confidence in the NDP's core social democratic values remains rock-solid, Mulcair wrote.
"I am inspired by that confidence and resolved to better articulate our vision and communicate it more effectively to all Canadians," he said.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
In the 2015 federal election, Thomas Mulcair's New Democrats fell from 95 seats to 44. And several high-profile incumbents from across the country were defeated, usually to Liberal candidates. Here are a few key names that will not be returning to Ottawa...
First elected: 2006 Riding: Ottawa Centre Shadow cabinet role: Foreign affairs Dewar also ran for the leadership of the party in 2012.
First elected: 2008 Riding: Halifax Shadow cabinet role: Deputy leader, environment
First elected: 1997 Riding: Sackville—Eastern Shore (N.S.) Shadow cabinet role: Veterans affairs Stoffer was named Maclean's magazines Parliamentarian of the year in 2013 and frequently won the most congenial MP award.
First elected: 2008 Riding: St. John's East Shadow cabinet role: National defence Harris was also the longtime leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party.
First elected: 2011 Riding: Hull—Aylmer Shadow cabinet role: Opposition whip Turmel served as interim NDP leader after Jack Layton stepped down to battle cancer. She was leader of the Official Opposition from August, 2011, to March, 2012.
First elected: 2012 Riding: Toronto Danforth Shadow cabinet role: Democratic and parliamentary reform Scott represented the Toronto riding held by former leader Jack Layton.
First elected: 2008 Riding: Welland Shadow cabinet role: Agriculture and Agri-Food
First elected: 2011 (though she served from 2004-2006 as a Liberal MP) Riding: Gatineau Shadow cabinet role: Justice
First elected: 2011 Riding: Halifax Atlantic Shadow cabinet role: Fisheries, deputy employment insurance Chisholm served as leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party and ran for the federal leadership in 2012.
First elected: 2011 Riding: St. John's South—Mount Pearl Shadow cabinet role: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
First elected: 2011 Riding: Newton—North Delta Shadow cabinet role: Employment and Social Development
First elected: 1997 Riding: Winnipeg Centre Shadow cabinet role: Public Works and Government Services Martin is perhaps the most quotable politician in Canada.
UP NEXT: Defeated Harper cabinet ministers
Though Stephen Harper was re-elected in his Calgary riding in the 2015 federal election, many members of his cabinet went down in defeat. Here are some key figures from Harper's inner circle who will not be returning to Ottawa...
Cabinet position: Minister of citizenship and immigration Riding: Ajax First elected: 2011
Cabinet position: Minister of finance Riding: Eglinton-Lawrence (Toronto) First elected: 2011 Oliver also previously served as minister of natural resources
Cabinet position: Minister of aboriginal affairs Riding: Madawaska—Restigouche (N.B.) First elected: 2011 (though he was a Progressive Conservative MP from 1984 to 1993).
Cabinet position: Associate defence minister Riding: Vaughan First elected: 2010 Fantino is probably better remembered for his controversial tenure as minister of veterans affairs.
Cabinet position: Minister of the environment Riding: Nunavut First elected: 2008 Aglukkaq previously served as minister of health, and was the first Inuk in Canadian history named to federal cabinet.
Cabinet position: Minister of natural resources Riding: Kenora First elected: 2008 Rickford previously served as minister of state for science and technology.
Cabinet position: Minister of fisheries and oceans Riding: Egmont (P.E.I.) First elected: 2008
Cabinet position: Minister of state for multiculturalism Riding: Edmonton—Sherwood Park First elected: 2008 Uppal also previously served as minister of state for democratic reform.
Cabinet position: Minister of state for science and technology Riding: London West First elected: 2008
Cabinet position: Chief government whip Riding: Vancouver Island North First elected: 2008 (though he also served as an MP from 1993 to 2006). Duncan previously served as minister of aboriginal affairs.
Dear NDP Members,
I would like to thank Rebecca Blaikie first and foremost for accepting to Chair the Campaign Review Working Group. Her dedication to our movement is truly inspiring. The Interim Report already provides us with many insights that will allow us to learn from the mistakes of the last campaign and correct them for the future.
Despite deep disappointment, there remains within the Party a rock solid confidence in our core social democratic values. I am inspired by that confidence and resolved to better articulate our vision and communicate it more effectively to all Canadians. I have also been heartened by the wellspring of goodwill across the country for our goal of a fairer, more progressive Canada.
Being ahead in the polls for the first half of the campaign and then falling back to third by election day, only increased the disappointment among members, our candidates and myself. As a direct consequence, many experienced and passionate colleagues are no longer with us in the House. We were shut out of key areas such as Atlantic Canada and Toronto. Our reduced Caucus also meant that many of our brilliant and dedicated staff lost their jobs. And while we were all heartened by our first victories in Saskatchewan in 5 elections and our superb performance on Vancouver Island, these positive results could not take away from a shared sense of loss.
The interim report provides a cogent summary of some of the specific lapses in the campaign preparation and execution. I agree with the over-arching assessment that our campaign came up short. As Leader, I take full responsibility for these shortcomings. I could have done a better job. It is my duty to the party and to you, our members, to learn from and to apply the lessons of the review.
If members grant me the honour of continuing to serve them, I am determined to make the necessary changes so that the mistakes of the campaign will never be repeated. Some of the changes have already started.
To begin with, I'm thrilled with the shared sense of solidarity and dynamism that has accompanied the arrival of my Chief-of-Staff, Party veteran Raymond Guardia. He is one of our most experienced organizers and is highly respected by all. New Deputy Chief-of-Staff Jordan Leichnitz is a woman who has made her mark on the policy front and represents strong renewal as well. Together, Ray and Jordan are overseeing the restructuring of our parliamentary operations. On the Party side, stalwart Karl Bélanger will be bringing his own vast knowledge into the role of Interim National Director, and will work to ensure that our convention in Edmonton lays out the path for our Party’s growth and future victories.
Second, we are overhauling the way Caucus works. We spent far too much energy trying to avoid mistakes in the lead-up to the last election. I believe this contributed directly to that sense of cautiousness that is referred to in the Interim Report. We must embrace a more pro-active approach, one where caucus members are invited to initiate projects that help us reach out to the people we represent. We held a very successful Caucus retreat a few weeks ago and this change is under way. Charlie Angus, as our new Caucus Chair, is as determined as I am for us to succeed in this
Third, the parliamentary wing must work more closely with the party and the grass-roots. Sheri Benson, our new MP from Saskatoon West, now sits on executive with the mandate to ensure this happens. As for the upcoming Convention, it is my fervent hope that members elect a President and an Executive who will attract new people and breathe new energy into the structures of the Party. I am profoundly convinced that respect between the Party and Caucus, and specifically respectful dialogue, will make us stronger. This is an essential undertaking. Our base has to know that they are the underpinning of any future electoral success.
Fourth, we are addressing the important observation from the interim report that the campaign lacked an over-arching narrative that could easily communicate our progressive proposals. This became apparent when our commitment to balancing the budget overshadowed our social democratic economic vision which saw new government revenues generated through higher taxes for corporations, closing CEO tax loopholes and a crackdown on tax havens. Going forward, we cannot content ourselves with simply keeping track of which promises the Liberals deliver on and which they break.
As I outlined in my speech during our caucus strategy meeting, we do this by offering a vision that is based on our shared values and the people we represent. We believe fundamentally in a strong role for government in reducing inequality and increasing opportunity in our society.
For example, when it comes to income inequality, we know that over the past generation, economic growth of more than 50% has not been of any benefit to the vast majority of Canadians who built that economy. Canada's CEO's can make 200 times the salary of a worker while families see their purchasing power decrease. I believe this is grossly unacceptable.
In an era where banks can eliminate thousands of jobs while at the same time paying their executives $12 billion in bonuses, our task is clear. Only social democrats are denouncing situations like the one facing 20,000 Steel workers in Hamilton. Their retirement stands to be destroyed because successive Conservative and Liberal Governments refuse to act. They know they can trust us to be on their side.
In closing, the review Rebecca and her team are conducting will permit us to be in a stronger position to fight for a fairer economy and to reduce inequality in our society.
Thanks again to Rebecca and I would also like to thank the thousands of you that have participated and I look forward to continuing the conversation when we get the final report.