Island NDP may see changes with new federal leader

Mitch MacDonald
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Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, left, walks past Province House in Charlottetown with federal executive Joe Byrne in a Guardian file shot..


With Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair now carrying the torch of the national New Democratic Party, Islanders may see a boost in the party's presence on P.E.I.

An Island contingent of about 20 card-carrying NDP members travelled to the national party's leadership convention this weekend in Toronto, ON. in addition to the many other P.E.I. members who voted online or via mail.

The event became a marathon stretching from Friday into Saturday night. In the end, widely-predicted frontrunner Mulcair went head-to-head with longtime party strategist Brian Topp, with Mulcair sealing the leadership by garnering 57.2 per cent of the fourth and final vote.

P.E.I. NDP Youth co-chair Chris van Ouwerkerk was in the sea of Mulcair supporters when the final result was announced. While the MP, who represents the Outremont, Que. riding, was virtually a guaranteed win by the fourth round, van Ouwerkerk said there was a lot of nervous tension in the minutes leading up to the final result.

That tension quickly turned into a celebration, he said.

"The place erupted," said van Ouwerkerk, who described hundreds of supporters jumping up and down in victory. "I had never been part of something this big with this much energy.

"The feeling in the room was just hope and happiness."

Some high-profile Island members of the NDP had already given Mulcair their stamp of approval, including federal executive member Joe Byrne and Dr. Herb Dickieson, the only New Democrat ever elected to the P.E.I. legislature.

Both were also at the convention, with Byrne describing Mulcair's victory speech as excellent.

"He hit it out of the park," said Byrne. "It was said whenever he was in P.E.I. in December and he reiterated it again tonight (Saturday). We have to look at getting organized and the resources we need to get our message out to unite all Canadians."

The NDP message may soon become a lot louder on P.E.I., with one of Mulcair's promises being to create a $3.38 million fund to provide every electoral riding with $10,000 to take on the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election.

Van Ouwerkerk said funds like that could make a huge difference to Island candidates.

"On P.E.I., that is pretty much $10,000 more than what we would have had," he said. "It sets up a whole lot of chances for us.

But it is still up to us to take advantage of those chances."

During his visit to P.E.I. in December, Mulcair had also pledged to invest resources and dollars into the province's NDP campaigns if his leadership bid was successful. He also said he believes the NDP could become the party of choice for Islanders, despite the traditional two-party system.

P.E.I. party leader James Rodd extended his congratulations to Mulcair after the convention and said he looked forward to working together during the rest of his tenure.

He also invited Mulcair to the annual provincial convention on May 25 and 26 in Charlottetown.

"Our springtime provincial convention will be held in the spirit of love, hope and optimism... and if he is able to attend, we will welcome Thomas in this spirit and in solidarity," said Rodd.

The leadership convention, which saw six candidates face off, didn't go quite as smoothly as planned.

A series of cyber attacks backed up voting and caused delays throughout the day, most notably during the second ballot Saturday morning.

Despite some obvious frustrations, everyone at the convention was understanding of the problems, said van Ouwerkerk.

"There wasn't anyone acting out," he said.

Byrne added that by the third and fourth ballots, voting had started going much more smoothly.

He added that the event's atmosphere was "amazing" and noted that Friday night served largely as a tribute to the late party leader Jack Layton, who died of cancer in August, and the "Layton legacy" that he left behind.

Indeed, Layton was the face of the party when it reached its highest popularity ever during the "orange wave" in 2011 and formed the official Opposition for the first time in history.

Taking over Layton's former post will be far from a walk in the park for Mulcair and as Byrne said, it's a change that isn't going to happen overnight.

"It's going to take a while for him to make the transition but he's already getting down to work," said Byrne.

Mulcair found himself heading his first NDP caucus meeting Sunday before he jumps into business of the house Monday.

His new leadership also comes just before the Stephen Harper Conservatives bring down their first budget as a majority government this Thursday.



Organizations: New Democratic Party, Conservatives

Geographic location: P.E.I., Toronto, ON, Outremont Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • DB
    March 28, 2012 - 13:38

    Gabriel The NDP had no hand in (so called) destroying the Bloc. It's simply a case of being in the right place at the right time. Anybody but Bloc scenario. Half of the people had no idea who they were voting for and still don't. A solid sturdy base in Quebec it is not. Maybe not now or maybe not the next election but eventually Canadians will realize that the House of Commons has been taken over by Reformers and Cameleon like NDP trying to be something they are not , being blinded by the thought of actually forming Government.

  • Uncle Wally
    March 26, 2012 - 15:07

    What does the "N" in NDP really mean? With a few exceptions (like polygamy) and things people still can't do in Alabama, we've come a long way in separating church and state. Yet, prior to that shift, church/state separation was considered insane; first you'd be tortured then executed. It was seen as pure madness to cede governance to the common people - to democracy. Flash to 2012 and the "separation" of commerce and state is just as insane - a madman's fantasy? Is this, perhaps, the emerging struggle of the New Democratic Party? What relationship will it have with our historical (and now ubiquitous) corporate masters? What degree of "separation" will the NDP foster? Does the NDP even want to nurture a consciousness debate about commerce and state? What are the indicators of change or strengthening the status-quo? From our own Bonshaw to other "Keystone" projects, we do live in interesting times . . .

  • F. George Hambleton
    March 26, 2012 - 11:13

    Socialists believe in government control of both the economy and the culture. It has failed everywhere on the planet. The NDP will fail. The NDP are anti-American, anti-conservative, and anti-Harper. They still haven't realized that the Liberals are their real adversaries. The Liberals will eat their lunch.

    • Charles Foster
      Charles Foster
      March 26, 2012 - 18:35

      Yet many of the things Canadians are most proud of come from the left side of the political spectrum. Medicare, multiculturalism, CPP, OAS, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms etc. and only a few years ago Tommy Douglas was voted "The Greatest Canadians."

  • Garth Staples
    March 26, 2012 - 10:31

    So the NDP hired an European company to conduct the technical aspects of the voting during the convention. How hypocritical! Meanwhile Canadian companies were cast aside. So much for creating Canadian jobs. Apparently there was a snafu during the voting process and the company is now under investigation? Oh where, oh where is Leslie?

    • Wondering
      March 26, 2012 - 12:55

      Perhaps the Canadian and US companies were all tied up doing robo-calls for the Tories, or plannning Peter MacKay's travel schedule.

    • twiggy
      March 27, 2012 - 09:44

      GarthStaples, where is Pierre Poutine? Who is Pierre Poutine? Do you know?

  • Karma
    March 26, 2012 - 09:07

    The question is now has the NDP been taken over by Quebec and how will Islanders react to that. Mr. Mulcair and his party with their Sherbrook Declaration, have been the supporters of many separatist policies including opposition to the Clarity Act. Led by Megan Leslie they have also opposed the Keystone Project, which cost thousands of jobs in Canada and the US and have generally opposed Western Canada energy development projects. Projects I should add that fund equalization payments including those that come to PEI. Thus they only have 3 MPs between the Ontario & BC borders. It should be interesting to see if Islanders are in the mood to embrace a party holding these positions. I don't think so - with the exception of the usual suspects of course.

    • Gabriel
      March 26, 2012 - 09:59

      Ahhhhh yes the anti-Quebec attack on Mulcair. Conjuring up separation and throwing around the fear and hate thesis. The NDP almost completely destroyed the Bloc Quebecois in the last election and the minions of the two old parties despised them for it. You guys would prefer the resurgence of the Bloc so your own pathetic two party system could prosper through anti-Quebec rhetoric and fearmongering in the rest of the country. Mulcair and the NDP will completley wipe the Bloc next time. It will be the best thing for Canada but no so good for the old parties. The NDP will unite Quebecois and other Canadains wiht a platform that actually deals with the issues and problems of the country. You guys can try to pull out the division and the hate but it will not work. Not this time. It is over. And good riddance. You guys need the hate and the division for political purposes. The great majority of people do not want this and as you will see in the next election they do not need you old style corrupt political interests either. As a former Liberal disgusted by everything from sponsorship to PNP I wholeheartedly welcome the NDP government and the replacement of as many as possible of the left over Lib and Con MPs by new NDP MPs in PEI. I particurly look forward to the defeat of Sean Casey and the election of Joe Byrne as MP for Charlottetown. Good bye to self servers, spreaders of hate and those who speak out of both sides of their mouths. The Libs are no better than the Cons. You cannot beleive anything they say. Good, good riddance.

    • Uncle Wally
      March 26, 2012 - 11:30

      Karma, I'm just wondering what's so clear about the Clarity Act? Does it really matter? Fact is, in '99 the NDP voted in favor of the Act, and six years later during a Federal election, Layton again supported it. That aside, isn't the whole muddle still subject to the viper's den of international jurisprudence? And talking of Karma, Mr. Ducasse (main author the Sherbrooke Declaration) couldn't even get elected in Quebec but is now a happy camper at the Canadian Union of Public Employees. And, if being concerned about the Keystone debacle is wrong, do you think we ought to flush Obama down the pipe too? What I do agree with is that we're in interesting times . . .

  • speedy
    March 26, 2012 - 08:19

    Wow! now what happens to our federal liberal representives when the liberal party gets swallowed up by the NDP?

  • voter
    March 26, 2012 - 07:48

    the last thing we need is more plundering, lieing,cheating,stealing, politicians -----if the NDP puts forward anything that even vaguely reminds me of the present style of plundering poltician they will not get my vote

  • Island out of the political dark ages
    March 26, 2012 - 07:03

    Good to see there will be more resources for the next campain here on the Island. While change is not certainly not embraced here, perhaps the additional resources will help convince people there is another option beyond the tradiation Pepsi/Coke choices (aka Liberal and Conservative) we continue to elect for some reason.