Ah, so our 42nd Election has come and gone and Canada is back once more to the two party system with a landslide Liberal majority elected on October 19th and the Official Opposition made up of the 99 member Conservative caucus. As you may have noticed the Ex-Opposition New Democrats, who not even three weeks ago were confident that they would win the majority government, have been returned to their historic third party status (having not even achieved their second best showing in the popular vote) with their leader Tom Mulcair having held onto his own seat by the skin of his teeth.
Since the country hasn’t burst into flames and sank into the ocean, as both Conservatives and New Democrats contended it would do if Trudeau was elected, both parties must now face the painful task of rebuilding, and perhaps rebranding, over the next four years. Harper, having stepped down as Conservative leader, will remain as an MP for now and will watch from the wings of the Railway Room (the less ornate caucus room of the Official Opposition) as his former sheep become wolves and tear each other apart. Several former cabinet ministers are already vying for the Interim Leadership with six Conservatives having declared their intention to seek the position: Diane Finley, Rob Nicholson, Erin O’Toole, Michelle Rempelle, Rona Ambrose, and Mike Lake.
Mulcair insists that he will remain as NDP leader; despite being the Michael Ignatieff of the party-taking it from Official Opposition to third party status in a majority parliament. He’s remained out of the public eye since the election, perhaps wanting to spend as much time as possible in Stornoway, the Residence of the Opposition Leader, which he will soon have to vacate. He doesn’t need to step down now in any case, for the New Democrats have a leadership review in May. Nevertheless many New Democrats, particularly those 50 odd MPs who were unseated by the red wave, are already talking about changes needing to be made.
Peter Stoffer, who had served in Parliament from 1997 until this election, is one proposing a number of changes including breaking the NDPs official ties with the Labour Unions (something its had since the party was created) and separating the federal and provincial wings of the party. Stoffer says he’s been pushing for such structural change for years pointing out that the NDP is the only party where the Federal and Provincial Parties are universally the same. Back in May the party, including Stoffer, seemed confident that the astounding victory of the Alberta NDP would help them federally…however having not gained any seats in the province and having failed to make net gains in Manitoba (which has been governed by the party for some time and where 7 of the 14 seats went Liberal on the 19th) the party seems to have remembered that success at the provincial level can cut both ways. So its better to be distinct. When you’re provincial counterparts are unpopular anyway.
Stoffer also suggested dropping the word “New” from the party’s name. After all it has been around since the early 60’s (early 30’s if you count its CCF predecessor) and a 50-80 year old entity can’t really be called “New” after all can it? Stoffer thinks calling themselves the “Democratic Party” could work out for them. Considering it a simple name change which people could easily digest. That would also give Canada its own “Democratic Party”, as exists in the United States.
Its quite possible that some believe changing the name to that of the successful American Party could boost the NDP’s self confidence; make them believe that there can only be a Red Door and an Orange Door-or a Red Door and a Blue Door (if they decide to change their colours too). That would get very confusing though-having two parties with the same colour blue -one right wing and one semi left of center -with the red party also being semi left of center… But colour pallets is just one of the many things the NDP needs to discuss in the coming months and lets face it, they didn’t loose the election because of their name.