OTTAWA — Quebec MP Guy Caron entered the federal NDP leadership race on Monday, bringing to three the current number of candidates seeking to succeed Tom Mulcair. Here are five things the candidates need to do to spark some interest:
1. Ignite enthusiasm about party despite its third-party status. The NDP is not the only federal political party that has recently faced the uphill task of rebuilding after a disappointing election. It was only six years ago that political observers were all but writing off the Liberals after their worst-ever showing. But the Liberals worked diligently to rebuild their ground game, connecting with supporters, fundraising and drawing on community leaders. Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus, one of the three candidates so far, says he plans to lure support by shaking up the political landscape. "It's time to bring some fire, some passion and some hope for change back to this country," Angus said Sunday in launching his bid. "It's time for proud New Democrats to build a new progressive movement."
2. Rebuild in Quebec. In 2011, the NDP managed to claim 59 of 75 available seats in the province, a late surge commonly referred to as the "Orange Wave" — a historic breakthrough credited to NDP leader Jack Layton and his then-Quebec lieutenant Tom Mulcair. After Mulcair took over following Layton's death, NDP supporters had high hopes for the party in 2015, only to see them dashed by a confluence of factors, including an aggressive Conservative and Bloc Quebecois offensive on the issue of face coverings at citizenship ceremonies. The party was left holding just 16 of the 75 Quebec seats. As a Quebec MP, Guy Caron is currently in the best position to help the party rebuild its support there.
3. Target growth in downtown Toronto, Atlantic Canada. On election day in 2015, the NDP found themselves wiped out by a wave of Liberal support in areas including downtown Toronto and Atlantic Canada. They even lost a number of traditional NDP strongholds, notably Toronto-Danforth, once Layton's domain.
4. Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise (and sign up new party members). NDP hopefuls will need to demonstrate their fundraising power because the party is in desperate need of cash. In its 2015 annual financial return, the NDP said it was carrying $5.8 million in debt. It has also lost a significant number of card-carrying supporters. The New Democrats have half as many supporters today than they did at the end of their 2012 leadership race. There were 60,000 NDP members as of December 2016, a party spokesperson said Monday; by the time the 2012 race that installed Mulcair was over, there were 120,000.
5. Woo back progressives who voted Liberal in 2015. The NDP lost significant support among progressive voters during the last election campaign. B.C. MP Nathan Cullen, a 2012 leadership contender, has suggested Canadians were attracted by Trudeau's celebrity but have since been disappointed by broken promises, including on electoral reform. Karl Belanger, the NDP's former national director, said many people in the party were disappointed by the results of the last election. Belanger said it now falls to the growing ranks of leadership candidates to step up and create excitement and support across a wide range of Canadians.