It’s been a few days now since the 43rd General Election came to an end and we’ve started to come to terms with our new political reality. We’ve got a new minority Parliament, one that looks like it won’t be coming back anytime soon, but we’re seeing things start to happen. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced yesterday that he’ll have his new cabinet sworn in on November 20th, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh met with his caucus via conference call and everyone is speculating about what might come next.
A part of that talk has revolved around taking a look back at what just happened and trying to make heads or tails of it. As I mentioned the day after the vote, I had mixed feelings about the result for the NDP and I can’t say that’s changed too much in the days since. So I’ve been interested in seeing others takes on the result, the campaign and where the NDP stands today. It was after reading three different takes from three experienced folks who I have a great deal of respect for, and seeing the reactions to each of them, that I felt the need to expand a bit more on this. But first, here are the people who I read and what they had to say:
When it comes to the NDP in this era, there are few people with as much experience, knowledge and background as Karl Bélanger, Tom Mulcair and Brian Topp. Along with that experience comes views on each of those individuals and how they react to them. And honestly, it was the reactions I saw from others that really pushed me to start writing this here, so take that in consideration as I put this out there.
For starters, each of these three had good points that were correct. Yes, it hurts to lose MPs and support in Quebec. Yes it’s not good that we dropped seats for two campaigns in a row, something that historically happened to the CCF/NDP. And yes, some people are going to be upset about that. That’s normal and if you were looking at all of this, totally devoid of everything else, would make complete sense.
And yes, as some have pointed out, Jagmeet and the central team ran a great six-week campaign. Yes, the party was able to drive a lot of the debate during the race, especially over the last two weeks. And yes again, Jagmeet himself became a star in our politics, as the most people saw and heard from him, the more that they liked him.
All of those things, the good and the bad, are true. That is not only possible, that is the case here. There is nothing controversial in those facts. So going forward, I must say the following to all of my brothers and sisters in the NDP family: Calm the heck down!!! Seriously, stop it. Stop the hurling of insults, stop the accusations of axe grinding and agendas and all that. Just stop it. I’m not saying you have to like everything these people are saying, but they aren’t saying it to drive a shive deeper in your collective backs. They are pointing to real, honest, serious points, things that do need to be addressed in time.
Let’s face it folks, by the time the writs were drawn up in September, the party wasn’t in the best shape it’s ever been in, and really, many of those underlying problems haven’t changed. The party is still cash poor, we are still not where we were in the past when it comes to organization and we now have fewer MPs to start with. Those are all things the party will need to deal with. That’s especially why I found Brian Topp’s piece so poignant for this moment. The fact is that the whole point of being a party is to try to win government, and when we fall short of that, we need to ask the serious questions about why that happened and how we can get there. Or to paraphrase what Brian wrote, “insisting on victory” is exactly what we need to be doing and doing so requires some introspection.
All of that doesn’t mean that you can’t take pride in what was accomplished in this campaign, nor does it mean that you can’t look at the positive coming from it. Those positives are going to be part of the building blocks going ahead, so we need to be open to those. We need to take the victories the party did get from this campaign, regardless of how you choose to categorize them, and build on them. But while we build, we can’t gloss over the holes that we have today. That’s the balance New Democrats need to strike, and if people are spending their time fighting with each other and pointing out what we need to fix, then we’ll never get there. So yes, calm down!!!
One last point though that I believe needs its own addressing here is Quebec, the result there and the reaction by each of these writers to it. The result in Quebec hurts many of us, especially those who were the architects of that success. They, like many of us, remember the days before that when the idea of the NDP being competitive in Quebec was a pipe dream at best. So to have been there to help the party rise from 0, to 1, to 59 seats in the province, it has to be hard to see that be reduced back to 1 only eight years later. It has to hurt to see, in the case of some of them, a couple decades of your work undone. That would be something that I would hope that would be understandable to most of us and wouldn’t illicit some of the vitriol that it has.
Again, this needs to stop. It’s not helping anything, it’s not making the party any stronger and it’s not solving any problems. These people aren’t out of touch for feeling the way they do and they aren’t taking shots at Jagmeet because of this. It is what it is folks, and it’s not all personal. The fact is that Jagmeet did everything that he could to try to save that legacy in Quebec, and I believe that is universally recognized so that’s not the problem here.
Going forward though, New Democrats and the party are going to need to have some serious conversations about how we fix what’s broken, fill those gaps and be in a better position for the next campaign. While being in a minority Parliament can be a problem because there will be less time to do that, I see a positive in being in this situation. Because of the minority Parliament, the party can’t draw down the organization and has to start preparing for a next campaign right away.
Unlike what happened in 2015, there won’t be a period of quiet stasis because of the very nature of minority Parliaments. That should sharpen the parties focus and stop them from pushing these things to the back burner. That should also help the party be in a better position by the time the next campaign comes. So I know that everyone has a lot of energy right now but it really needs to be an “all hands on deck” approach going forward. The fact is that we need to be able to deal with the legitimate issues raised by these experience voices, even if some don’t want to hear from them. So yes everyone, calm down, focus and let’s get to the task at hand. The party doesn’t have the time to have this vicious bun fight amongst ourselves because if we indulge in that, we’ll lose the next campaign before it starts.