NDP convention 2016

Eleven signs that Tom Mulcair wasn’t going to survive

They didn’t chant his name, wear his button, or buy his speech. Some on-the-ground clues that the NDP would reject Mulcair

From the time NDP delegates began arriving in Edmonton for this weekend’s convention, to the last moment before he began his speech today, to the speech itself, signs mounted that Tom Mulcair would not survive as leader. Here are eleven:

One: For his final speech, he was introduced as a great opposition leader of the past decade. Delegates wanted to know if he was a future prime minister.

Two: The speech itself was boilerplate nearly throughout, only catching fire in its last minute. Mulcair’s nearly tearful emotion at the outset wasn’t enough to elevate it.

Three: The standard set by Rachel Notley and Stephen Lewis the previous day was probably, based on his speech-making track record, beyond Mulcair’s ability to meet.

Four: His emphasis on the fact that losing the 2015 election gave him a chance to travel widely and meet NDP members and struggling Canadians—like a pensioner he spoke with, at an A&W restaurant—only reminded delegates of his lack of a closely felt connection before then.

Five: A common refrain all weekend: New Democrats always let their leaders stay for a second election, if they wish. But here are other things New Democrats always do: chant their leader’s name every chance they get. They never did.

Six: His response to the Leap Manifesto debate—essentially that he would follow the party’s direction—cast him more as a follower than a leader on by far the biggest argument of the convention. It got no mention in his speech.

Related: Where the NDP will land on the Leap Manifesto

Seven: The theme Mulcair and his caucus chose to rebuild around after the 2015 election—income inequality—was already a centrepiece of Justin Trudeau’s platform and pitch. So Mulcair’s speech echoed familiar Liberal lines on income stagnation.

Eight: Delegates were offered buttons to pin on, as is typical of conventions, but the ones featuring an image of Mulcair’s beard were not widely worn. Some even objected to being given passes attached to lanyards emblazoned with his name.

Nine: Lewis and Notley, in their widely admired convention speeches, made only fleeting references to Mulcair, relying instead on references to NDP heroes of yesteryear. Delegates speaking from the floor didn’t often reference him either.

Ten: Even many of those arguing in the convention corridors for a vote in favour of Mulcair staying on as leader sometimes hinted there would be another chance to dump him, if need be, before the next election.

Eleven: Backers of Mulcair often noted that under his leadership, the NDP had helped create the conditions for the ouster of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. That’s an awkward boast when it was the Liberals who wound up rising to power.

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