The Quebec wing of the NDP has executed a bloodless coup by winning the leadership of Canada’s socialist party and effectively ousting the unions-first old guard. The challenge now will be holding onto the reins of power without the direct, overt support of most of the party’s establishment.
In what National Post’s Andrew Coyne calls “something of a hostile takeover,” the NDP has denied itself leadership from its trade union base at the very time its stronghold in the public sector is about to be assaulted by the government of Stephen Harper.
Ever the pragmatist, Mulcair is far more likely to be swayed by public opinion, which is not overly sympathetic to public sector unions, than, say, Brian Topp or Peggy Nash. He does not strike me as having the single-mindedness of either of those trade unionists or the loyalty they have to the union movement.
By all accounts, Mulcair—at best, a soft socialist with few, if any, of the loyalties and the cultural affinities to the roots of the NDP—wants to remake the party in his own image, i.e., as a party of the centre-left.
Will he want to alienate much of the Canadian population by being too sympathetic to the cause of a public sector that has lived high of the public hog while so many others have suffered through one of the nations worst recessions?
I doubt it, but we’ll see how well he manages his first test, Thursday’s federal budget. Failure here will precipitate the first round of buyers remorse on the part of members of the NDP establishment who did back the new leader.