Althia Raj (The Huffington Post Canada):
Thomas Mulcair faced the national media Monday, hoping to make his case for why he deserves to stay on as party leader as calls for him to step aside mount.
Mulcair said he was energized after the Christmas break and excited to get back to work with his colleagues fighting against inequality and injustice. He laid out the NDP’s latest call to arms, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a massive free-trade deal among Pacific nations that the Liberal government appears poised to sign, but which, Mulcair suggests, threatens thousands of good jobs in Canada.
Despite wanting to talk about the TPP, the NDP leader faced a barrage of questions over his own leadership after he led the party from first place in polls at the beginning of the campaign in August to a crushing third-place finish that saw half of his caucus members lose their seats, taking the NDP from 103 seats in the 2011 election to 44 seats in 2015.
“It wasn’t there for us this time,” Mulcair told reporters in explaining the Oct. 19 result. “As a team, we haven’t been to the finals very often, and I can tell you that we learned a lot. Next time, we’ll be there to get the cup.”
In April, Mulcair faces a leadership vote at the party’s national convention in Edmonton. He told reporters that he needs 50 per cent plus one vote to avoid a leadership race and that he hopes to get more than that — much more than that — but he refused to set a floor and say how much support he wants in order to remain the party leader.
“It’s up to the members to decide that,” he told HuffPost when asked for his desired support base. “I don’t take anything for granted. I’m humbled, before the membership and the extraordinary wave of good ideas that have come forward since the election to correct what they see as being problems. I’m also determined, very proud to lead this party, and I’m going to go before the membership without presuming anything … and ask for their support, and it has to be, of course, beyond 50 per cent.”
What about 60 per cent? Mulcair wouldn’t say.
“I know that that support can be there. I sense it is there, but I’m not taking anything for granted.”
Mulcair said he will continue to work with the parliamentary caucus, plans to meet party officials this weekend and will likely head to a riding in Manitoba to meet with grassroots members.
First, however, Mulcair will meet with his MPs Tuesday for a two-day caucus retreat in Montebello, Que., before the House of Commons returns next week.
Mulcair urged to take responsibility for NDP’s defeat
During his press conference, the NDP leader struck a more pensive tone than he has in the past several weeks and months, when he has mostly played down the NDP’s stunning defeat.
After the election, he blamed the niqab issue for the party’s loss of support in Quebec — despite the Liberals’ holding the same position. To the party faithful in Vancouver in November, he praised the party’s election result in the province and reminded volunteers that the party had its second best showing ever.
Since then, several high profile New Democrats have suggested their leader is dreaming in technicolour if he believes he can stay on to fight the next election in 2019. They had hoped Mulcair would take responsibility for some of the NDP campaign’s worst strategic mistakes, pointing to the call for a balanced budget in the midst of a technical recession. So far, Mulcair hasn’t.
On Monday, he declined to give a straight answer about whether he believes the federal government should bring in a balanced budget and if he thinks deficits, right now, are necessary because of the declining loonie and the massive drop in oil prices. It was left up to an aide to explain the party leader’s position.
The night of the election, Mulcair said: “I shared the sadness and the disappointment of many people. But now, I’m encouraged by what I see across the country.”
He never thought of resigning. Not once, he said. “It’s not in my nature.”
See also: “No compelling case for Mulcair to stay as NDP leader” (The Toronto Star)
See also: “Tom Mulcair’s critics should take another look at their leader” (The National Post)
See also: “The case for keeping Tom Mulcair” (Maclean’s)