NDP Concordia and McGill: “Mulcair Needs to Step Down”

Student Groups Call for New Democratic Party Leader’s Resignation at Edmonton Convention

Thomas Mulcair led the NDP campaign in the 2015 elections that resulted in a blow to the party’s presence in parliament. Photo Matt D’Amours

Concordia and McGill New Democratic Party campus groups are demanding a change in leadership at the federal convention in Edmonton in April.

An open letter calling for the “renewal” of the New Democratic Party on Tuesday was signed by 37 members, including former members of parliament and Concordia student Julia Maksymetz.

The letter published in Le Devoir and the Toronto Star included former MP signatories Jamie Nicholls (Vaudreuil-Soulanges), Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle-Émard-Verdun), Élaine Michaud (Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier), but a second, more pointed letter, was published later that day by campus groups.

“We feel that the campaign we ran in the last election fell short of the aspirations of New Democrats,” members wrote in the original letter. “We did not recognize ourselves in the platform we had to defend.”

The second letter written by students went further, asking leader Thomas Mulcair to step down, criticizing the election platform for “lacking progressive vision.” Mulcair’s campaign forced students to argue against issues they care about, such as the legalization of marijuana, tax hikes for Canada’s rich and investment in infrastructure and youth employment. The letter says young NDP members felt they had to speak both in favour and against the Energy East pipeline, in line with the campaign’s ambiguous position on exploiting oil.

“We believe that the party leadership abandoned core NDP values in a misguided attempt to appeal to centrist voters,” students wrote. “We often felt more liberal than the Liberal Party.”

Maksymetz, who was a representative in the original letter, says the point of the second letter was to show that different opinions exist within the Party.

“Although we completely stand behind the statement we issued today, there are others that are slightly more reluctant, so we wanted to encourage a broad array of opinions to be brought forward,” she said.

With all signatories coming from Quebec for both letters, Maksymetz says the province has questions for the party, which lost 59 seats in the last election. Only 16 MPs remain in Quebec as of the Oct. 19, 2015 results, down from 59 MPs elected in the province in 2011.

“There is disappointment surrounding the last election,” Maksymetz said. “This is something I dedicated a lot of time to and fundamentally believe in. If there is a return to the leftist roots and grassroots, then the NDP can embody what its members represent.”

The student letter mentioned international leftist politicians Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, calling them “unabashed” and asking the NDP to elect a similar leader.

“It’s time for someone who is not ashamed of our activist past to lead the NDP into the future,” students wrote in the open letter. “That person is not Mr. Mulcair.”

A leadership confidence vote will be held at the party’s Edmonton convention in April. Mulcair will have to win 70 per cent of the vote to continue leading the party.