Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa
Tom Mulcair was removed as leader of the NDP because of the party’s disappointing result in the last federal election. The election started with Mulcair as the favourite to become prime minister, and it ended with the NDP back to its traditional third place.
There is, however, a more interesting element behind Mulcair’s defeat. While many of the convention attendees expressed sadness that they had to make the difficult decision of removing Mulcair, the left-wing of the party openly celebrated his demise, pumping their fists in the air in delight.
Mulcair would likely have been a competent prime minister, but while he had the same policies as Jack Layton, he did not have his charisma. Mulcair’s term as leader ended with a humiliating vote. He was two per cent short of the 50 per cent that would have at least allowed him to resign with dignity. Had he received the support of some of the left-wing of the party, he would at least passed the 50 per cent mark.
Unlike the party moderates who voted against Mulcair because they felt that he could not win, the left-wing voted against him purely for ideological reasons. The most salient point of disagreement between them is that Mulcair is moderately pro-Israel whereas the extreme left is vehemently anti-Israel. The extremists have been waiting for an opportunity to exact their revenge on him. This past weekend, that opportunity finally materialized.
The defeat came despite Mulcair's attempts to appease the extremists. Despite being pro-Israel, Mulcair used very careful language on this topic since he became leader and he managed to prevent a public war within the party between the pro-Israel and the anti-Israel camps. He even voted against a Conservative resolution in Parliament that condemned the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, refusing to join the Liberals who voted for it.
Mulcair’s stand in support of the wearing of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies during the last election also appeared to be an attempt to appease the extreme left. They were not appeased, and they took the first opportunity to humiliate him.
Extremists in the ranks
The presence of a virulently anti-Israel faction has now become common in Western left-wing parties. The U.K Labour party even elected the anti-Israel Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. The anti-Israel hysteria found on the extreme left is fed by its victimization fetish, and it goes far beyond reasonable criticism. Its singling out of the only Jewish state for extreme and unbalanced criticism feeds anti-Semitism.
U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump was roundly criticized by many Republicans when it became known that he had not immediately repudiated the support of high-profile racists. No Western party today would tolerate an openly racist faction within it, yet the anti-Semitism fostered by the extreme left is rarely challenged.
Mulcair’s predecessors Jack Layton and Alexa McDonough took courageous steps in trying to cleanse the party of its anti-Israel elements, and Mulcair continued the same policies. For example, he refused to accept candidates who are blatantly anti-Israel. Mulcair, however, should have taken the fight against the extremists to the next level. The extremists never left the party. They were lurking in the shadows, waiting for the next opportunity to strike. Mulcair should have made his support for Israel much more visible, like Stephen Harper did, which would have caused the extremists to leave in disgust.
But Mulcair allowed the extremists to remain and to ignore the party’s low-key pro-Israel policies. The extremists have a strong presence in the grassroots of the party, and Mulcair did nothing to change that.
While Jack Layton was a transformational figure who changed the party into a much more modern and credible machine that was seen by Canadian voters as a possible party of government, marginalizing the extreme left, Mulcair failed to take the step of eliminating the extreme left altogether. The NDP is now back to being a third party, both in numbers and in mindset. To the chagrin of the Alberta NDP which is now in power, the party is now debating a “Leap Manifesto” that would make the federal party completely unelectable and would damage their provincial chances as well.
Mulcair is leaving a party deeply divided. He failed to leave a lasting mark. His experience and knowledge would have made him an excellent Cabinet minister in a Jack Layton government, but it turns out that leading a left-wing party with a deep extremist mentality at its grassroots was beyond his capabilities.
He tried to buy the extremists’ loyalty by appeasing them, mirroring the NDP’s approach towards ISIS, but like with ISIS, appeasement only feeds the problem and makes the extremists stronger. In the end, the NDP’s extremists delivered the fatal blow and then rejoiced in seeing Mulcair go down to a humiliating defeat.
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Fred-Maroun and http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/fred-maroun/.