As he fights for his political life, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says he agrees with a defeated MP’s cutting assessment of his performance in the last federal election.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks to the media as Peggy Nash looks on during a news conference on Parliament Hill, Monday, September 30, 2013. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
He was asked about a blog former Toronto NDP MP Peggy Nash wrote for The Huffington Post Canada this week that took a hard look at what went wrong with the party's campaign — and where Mulcair, in particular, fell short.
Nash, who ran for the NDP leadership in 2012, was one of several respected, high-profile MPs defeated in October as the party plummeted from 95 seats to 44.
Mulcair was specifically asked about two paragraphs in Nash’s piece that targeted him directly. The first noted how Mulcair didn’t answer questions on the opening day of the campaign, refused to debate unless former prime minister Stephen Harper was present and generally failed “to inspire Canadians.”
The second urged Mulcair to show delegates “the passion that was so lacking” during the campaign, and noted that New Democrats “urgently” need a leader that can help Canada become a more progressive and inclusive place.
Mulcair said that was exactly the type of feedback he has received from the party’s election post-mortem process, which included “unvarnished” meetings across the country.
“I could have written a lot what Peggy said there in terms of the failings of the campaign,” he said, adding that still he hopes to keep his former colleague close.
“She’s won for us before and I’d love to have her back. She’s a strong MP.”
Mulcair said it is “very difficult to contest” that the NDP failed to effectively communicate on the campaign trail.
Owns up to flub at start of campaign
“I am responsible for any decision, including whether or not to take questions on the launch of the campaign,” he said, adding he’s also answerable for the advice from his inner circle that he chose to follow.
“And you know what? I’m not disputing it. I respect every member’s ability to assess the campaign, every member’s right to come to their own conclusions,” he said.
“I would hope to be able to have every single one of them but it wouldn’t be a real exercise if it were unanimous. We’re a political party, we’re a movement. We’re not a cult.”
Mulcair said the federal campaign in Ottawa tried to “impose” a model on different regions of the country and didn’t adapt enough. He said the party apparatus needs to be better connected to the base and local riding associations.
"I would hope to be able to have every single one of them but it wouldn’t be a real exercise if it were unanimous. We’re a political party, we’re a movement. We’re not a cult."
And he has also taken heed of Nash’s call to “speak from the heart” in his address to delegates Sunday just prior to a mandatory vote on his leadership.
“I intend to speak to the hearts and the minds of those members and make them understand that we do have the voice, we have the program, we have the plan that connects with Canadians across the country,” he said.
But Mulcair will not reveal the magic number he needs to stay. The NDP constitution demands a leader receive at least 50 per cent plus one support from delegates, but conventional wisdom suggests the show of support must be higher. NDP party president Rebecca Blaikie has suggested the bar should be set at 70 per cent.
“I have a number in my heart and a pretty good idea of where I’m going,” he said, adding that “artificially” setting a specific number would remove his ability to assess things if he falls “within a point or two on either side.”
The NDP leader also said he didn’t want to “prejudice” the process by setting a number in advance.