This blog isn't about the history of the Dippers, the storied beginning of the New Democratic Party here in Canada and where we got to where we are today. This is more-so a heads-up for Mulcair to pack up his proverbial desk, give up the guise of being the leader of the NDP and go away.
Harsh, sure, but he started it. He essentially was a drifter, of sorts, wandering the highway, looking for a job on a farm, maybe a truck to rebuild, transport some goods from one end of the highway to the other. He lucked out, though, or so he thought, when he came across a big Orange fire truck, keys in ignition, no one behind the wheel. Yes, there was a small inscription written on the driver's seat in pen that said "RIP JACK", but he didn't care, he did what any big-kid-at-heart would do, he got in, turned the key and hit the gas.
Took a few metres for the chugging to chug themselves out and it get up to speed, and when it happened, BOOM, did it ever. But don't confuse speed for accuracy. He's not throwing a Splitter to his catcher, he's recklessly driving the NDP into political oblivion.
It's easy to say it's not Mulcair's fault that he took over the NDP when he did, that no one wanted Jack Layton to pass away let alone succeed him knowing how much Layton meant to the party, Canada and the election of 2011 in particular. It'd kind of be like following after 2 terms of Bill Clinton, being the Lakers next centrepiece player after Kobe Bryant or replacing John Bonham. Just something no one wanted or wants.
It'd be hard for anyone to follow in Jack's footsteps. I can't think of someone back then nor anyone close now who could do it. Layton is a Canadian Heritage Moment in the pre-production line, just one supportive prime minister from being given the recognition he deserves not only for what he did for the NDP but Canada as a whole. He'll never get acknowledgement from Harper and his friends, in fact they are hoping never to hear of Mr. Layton's name again, probably banishing it from most of their homes as though it was the dirtiest of insults. It of course isn't, it's that name that scares conservatives immensely, to this day, as a reminder of how close they were to losing it all last election. And that the only reason they are smooth-sailing into the next election is because of the untimely passing of Mr. Layton.
In 2003, Jack was nominated as leader of the NDP party after years involved with them, federally since 1991, actually. In 2003, Thomas Mulcair was Minister of Sustainable Government, Environment and Parks for the Quebec Liberals on the provincial side of politics. In 2004, Layton lead the NDP federally to it's highest popular vote across the country in sixteen years. In 2004, Mulcair was working on Quebec's Sustainable Development Plan, still for the Liberal party.
Shortly thereafter, on the federal side of politics, the paper-thin Paul Martin Liberal government was brought down by a vote of non-confidence by both Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives and Layton's NDP. Meanwhile, as the parties geared up for another election, Mulcair was sulking at being offered a job in the Quebec Liberal government by then leader Jean Charest he saw as a demotion and resigned from the cabinet. He would soon-after announce he wasn't running again for the Liberals and the Mulcair marriage was over.
Mulcair wanted to join the NDP, maybe he had seen enough of the fall of that era's Liberal party, with uninspiring leaders in Stephan Dion and Michael Ignatieff as enough of a message to abandon the train-wreck before it hit the brick wall it inevitably did. You can't criticize him announcing on 4/20 almost six years ago he was joining the NDP. When you have parties as similar as the NDP and Liberals, there's going to be those who dance on party lines. But what about the by-election that got him his NDP nomination in Outremont just months later where he ran uncontested and unchallenged? Or his 2007 election against a Liberal who was triple-teamed on against with the Conservatives and Iggy-camp that could have gotten Karla Homolka elected against? In the 2008 election he won his first seat officially by a difference of less than 2500 votes. In 2011's election he had his most dominant federal results, beating Liberal Martin Cauchon, a former Minister of Justice who just announced his leadership intentions for the National Liberal party.
Jack's battle for a vision of Canada he painted like a master ended August 22nd, 2011. Thomas Mulcair had decided by October 13th he would run for the leadership of the party in March of this past year. He'd end up taking over Brian Topp, a NDP'er from Quebec since 1980 who had 27 years party experience on Mulcair, in the final round of the NDP leadership convention. Two months later he was in moved into Stronoway, the residence of the opposition leader, and the Mulcair era of the NDP was under-way.
If Jack made any mistakes, it was making the party his, so defined by everything he did, that his cabinet and caucus were never given the same airtime or chance to even grow and shine on their own. He should have put names to faces and faces to names in his party and celebrated them as a family, but hey, no one expected what happened to happen and it's almost kind of the NDP-way for it to have worked out the way it did.
I think a lot of Mulcair's popularity initially came from the fact that he was from Quebec and could keep Quebec with the NDP in the upcoming election or any election, for that matter. We know that the keys to Canada were given through Quebec, and even now are, but the mistake the NDP is banking on is that the rest of Canada would be able to relate to Muclair and his not even six years of federal political experience. Further, there's nothing folk-lorey about the Thomas Mulcair story here. There's no guitar playing, no final act of a leader leaving it all on the line for his third majority at the federal level.
No, there's nothing here but politics being played to keep the NDP afloat another day. What no one has recognized, however, though, is that when Mr. Layton passed, so did the NDP era.
It'll be interesting to see if Mulcair can do something, anything, to build any of his own momentum, because once the Liberals get their leader, and the more time that passes since Jack died, the less and less the voting block who backed them last election is going to be there. There's just a huge difference between Layton's NDP and the modern-NDP and it's only a moment of time before people clue in and realize the NDP era is over and their support of them a waste.