Wednesday, April 06, 2016

On performance reviews

Following up on this post, I'll weigh in with my own take on the federal NDP's leadership review - based primarily on the question of what Tom Mulcair seems to have taken away from the 2015 federal election, and how it will position the party in the years to come.

As alluded to in some previous posts, I'd sum up my expectations in the wake of the election to be roughly the following:
- to critically assess what happened in the previous election campaign to determine what lessons can be learned, both for better and for worse;
- to put to rest any (however implausible) question as to which is the most progressive party in Parliament;
- to prioritize MP empowerment and outreach over caution and discipline;
- to transition away from "default opposition" status toward a stronger focus on policies and values; and
- to focus on long-term and broad-based movement-building, including with a concerted effort to approach people who were excluded from involvement with the party.

And on all counts, I'd see Mulcair as having at least taken meaningful steps down the right path.

The NDP's interim report and final campaign review (PDF) has received plenty of attention. And both offer at least a useful high-level set of reflections and ideas. 

But some of the more noteworthy moves since the election also include significant issue-based initiatives by MPs, as well as a strong policy focus on inequality, precarious work and fairness for First Nations. And Mulcair's own pre-budget tour featured ample interactions with party activists and interested newcomers alike, while his pre-convention discussions have included some important recognition of the need to build from the NDP's membership base.

The most important question for me is then whether those steps should be seen as a temporary nod to the base in light of the impending leadership review, or the starting point in building the movement needed to elect a truly progressive federal government. And I see both reason for optimism that Mulcair himself recognizes the need for a change in course following the election, and another opportunity to address any continued shortcomings at the next NDP policy convention.

When the generally positive direction in a new political environment is combined with the strengths Mulcair has always brought to the table, I'm looking forward to seeing what he can work on building given the opportunity. And so I'll be voting to support Mulcair in Edmonton - with both the hope and the expectation that we'll see more sustainable party renewal without a leadership race than with one.


  1. Funny that 2 of the 3 "significant issue-based initiatives" you link to were brought forward by MPs I'd rather see as leader of the NDP.

    1. And I suspect both are in what I'd consider to be the top tier of alternatives as well. But I'd think it's for the best both are able to show their leadership and organizational acumen already.

  2. There is a need to review the way the party operates, how it functions. What does it mean to be a New Democrat is a question I want to hear answered by the leadership. The issues that need to be addressed in a dialogue across Canada: jobs, and justice, others as well, how will they be handled? Is Tom going to speak about how he intends to have the party take ownership of itself? I do not want to hear what will be done on my behalf, I want a commitment to put the party in the hands of the membership.

    1. Agreed Duncan - again I see things moving in the right direction on that front, but definitely want more to be done (and by the whole party structure rather than Mulcair alone).

  3. Sub-Boreal9:58 p.m.


    I'm also a delegate, but I haven't decided how I will vote on Sunday. I certainly don't think that the NDP's problems can be fixed by just a leadership change. Despite some reservations at the time, I supported Mulcair in 2011 as the best of the available options. And I still think that he was the best choice at the time. Given Brian Topp's key role in blowing the 2013 BC campaign, I think that we dodged an even bigger bullet.

    One of the much bigger problems is that there seems to be a culture of no consequences for serious incompetence at the upper level of the party apparatus. Quite simply, I just don't think that our hacks are particularly good. Not anticipating last year that the federal Libs would do an Ontario-style fake to the left is a firing offense for the ages. Yet the party culture seems to enable failing upward, with key figures in the 2013 BC fiasco and the 2015 federal one landing on their feet with plum jobs in Edmonton. At a certain point - which we may be at - rank and file members just get weary of having their volunteer time and dollars pissed away by the bad decisions of the higher-ups. Life is short, and all of us have better things to do.

    If I end up not supporting Tom this time, it will be because I just can't believe that the born-again warrior against inequality is for real. Not when I and so many others remember the mid-campaign diatribe against raising taxes on higher incomes.

    1. That's a fair concern to be sure as to the message on personal taxes. But it's worth noting that his position then also focused on having corporations pay their fair share and fighting tax evasion - and it's a plus that he's emphasizing those messages now (while not, as some pundits speculated, pushing a balanced-budget-at-all-costs message).

      As for the rest of the party apparatus, I heartily agree that both credit and blame for party results should go far beyond the leader. But there too I'd want to ask what's worked and what hasn't rather than bringing out the axe as soon as things don't go our way - and the same core group has also had some important successes including the 2011 Orange Wave.

  4. Refreshing to read your practical,reality-based reflections. We never get the perfect situation, just the real one. Not going to Convention (too far, too expensive) but hope party will rise to the occasion. For what it's worth, I agree with Fingas: "we'll see more sustainable party renewal without a leadership race than with one."