Tyler Lombardi, Contributor
Canada’s New Democrats began a new era in their party’s history on Saturday, when they selected Thomas Mulcair as party leader. Mulcair finally defeated former party president Brian Topp on the fourth ballot.
In his victory speech, Mulcair promised to carry on the legacy of the late party leader Jack Layton, who led the NDP to a 103 seat finish and their status as the official opposition in the 2011 federal election. “As Jack Layton said, our greatest accomplishment wasn’t winning seats in Parliament,” he said. Rather, it was “giving people a reason to believe that you can vote for change.”
The Montreal MP began his political career in the Quebec Liberal party, where he was elected to the Quebec National Assembly in 1994. After being reelected twice and serving as Minister of Sustainable Development, Mulcair resigned from the Liberals in April of 2007 after a dispute with Premier Jean Charest. He then joined the federal NDP and won a seat in Outremont in a 2007 by-election.
In choosing Mulcair, the New Democrat delegates chose a different vision from that of Brian Topp, going with a candidate who promises to be more flexible in an attempt to appeal to more Canadians. When attacked by his opponents during the campaign for what was perceived to be a lack of commitment to NDP principles, Mulcair gave an appraisal of the party’s political fortunes: “Between the Ontario border and the B.C. border we now hold a grand total of three seats.”
“We have to refresh our discourse, modernize our approach, and use a language that pleases our supporters, but also attracts people who share our vision,” said Mr. Mulcair. He must now make a case to Canadians that the NDP could be counted on to govern the country. “It’s important for us to be able to project confidence and competence as public administrators. That’s sometimes what was missing,” he said.
The governing Conservative party has already gone on the attack against the new opposition leader. Heritage Minister James Moore said that under Mulcair’s leadership the NDP would retain a high-tax approach to the economy, adding that Mr. Mulcair’s “vicious” politics don’t sit well with Canadians.
Mulcair has a reputation as a tough political fighter, and as he describes, “People have come to know me as someone who will always be ready for a battle.”