Many don’t remember much from the 2017 NDP leadership race, as it was a runaway victory for Jagmeet Singh, but looking back, a lot of the current poor performance of the New Democrats can be linked to the lack of good candidates to lead the party.
Although Singh’s New Democrats did surge in the polls before last night’s election, the results they achieved prove the party is a far cry from what it was under Jack Layton.
Charlie Angus is probably not a name many people will recognize, despite having been a well-liked MP from Timmins-James Bay since 2004, he came second in the NDP leadership race with 19.4% of the vote.
During the leadership campaign, Charlie was considered a close front runner, alongside Mr. Singh, gathering most of his support from veteran New Democrat members who liked his dedication to getting back to the NDP’s roots.
Although Charlie is popular in his riding as well as with a sizable portion of the party, he isn’t popular among other NDP MPs. Only two of the 44 NDP MPs endorsed his leadership run. Both Guy Caron and Niki Ashton who got fewer votes than Charlie still received more endorsements.
This is certainly attributable to Charlie’s handling of Thomas Mulcair’s transition out as the NDP leader.
Charlie, despite advocating for the NDP to return to its grassroots heritage, quickly gained a reputation for top-down leadership.
NDP MPs said that weekly caucus meeting’s time was mostly taken up by “head table” with Angus and the leader doing the talking, handing out orders, while blocking input from backbenchers.
Mulcair was voted out as the leader in April 2016 and during the time leading up to that event, Angus failed to satisfy anyone. Quebec NDP MPs thought Angus was unfairly attempting to push Mr. Mulcair out before a new leader was selected; while other MPs, unhappy with Muclair, thought Angus had been too harsh in trying to quash the issue.
This behaviour, according to other NDP members, is typical of Charlie Angus who is said to advocate the populist position in order to benefit his career.
After coming in third place in the leadership race, Niki Ashton, MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, also added to the general discontent in the party.
Despite losing in what was a fair election, Ashton accused the media of having not given her any exposure, despite coverage being about equal between all three losing candidates, going as far as accusing the media of sexism for partially focusing on her pregnancy during the race.
At the very least this backhanded excuse shows NDP members why Ashton was probably not ready for leadership to begin with.
Although Niki and Charlie do not represent all New Democrats, the fact that the choices for leadership, including Mr. Singh, were so inadequate shows the party is in a tight spot.
It may be that the NDP has been so hampered by its own politician’s ambitions for power that actual talent and leadership qualities have been sidelined. Jagmeet himself during the 2019 election seemed more focus on gaining personal popularity within the shrunk base of his party than proving himself a worthwhile alternative to the Liberals and Conservatives.
Following the NDP’s major loss last night, likely only getting to prop up Trudeau’s Liberal government, due to the poor shape of the NDP, Singh may find himself on thin ice as party leader, with no viable replacement.