OTTAWA – NDP MPs are holding their first caucus session following a bruising convention that saw Tom Mulcair turfed as the party’s permanent leader.
Mulcair plans to stay on until a successor is named up to two years from now – an issue expected to be discussed during today’s meeting.
On Tuesday, he got a rousing standing ovation from both sides of the aisle as he returned to the House of Commons for the first time since having his leadership roundly rejected by members of his own party.
It was a far warmer reception for the embattled NDP leader than the one he got Sunday in Edmonton, where delegates – more than half of them – made it abundantly clear they believe it’s time for new leadership.
Indeed, Mulcair seemed somewhat taken aback by the mutual display of respect – both sides recoiled in mock indignation, much to his amusement, when he launched into one of his standard cross-partisan broadsides.
“After years of ethically challenged Conservative rule, the Liberals promised to do things differently,” he said, his laughter betraying the levity of the moment.
“They keep finding novel ways of being the Liberals.”
Goodwill on the floor of the House notwithstanding, Mulcair’s stated plan to remain as leader until a successor is chosen, which could be two years away, wasn’t sitting well with some members of the NDP caucus.
It’s sure to be a topic of heated discussion at Wednesday’s caucus meeting as NDP MPs consider how best to pick up the pieces from the emotional and divisive policy convention.
Some 52 per cent of delegates at the convention voted in favour of a leadership review – meaning Mulcair’s level of support was just 48 per cent, unheard of for a sitting federal leader.
NDP House leader Peter Julian said he continues to support Mulcair and isn’t aware of any caucus members who want him to step down.
“I certainly have not heard any of that,” he said.
The NDP’s constitution and the decision of the convention was very clear, Julian said, noting there be a new leadership convention held within two years.
“He will continue as leader until then if he wants to,” Julian said.
But some MPs, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, said they were shocked to hear Mulcair wants to stay on. One called the idea “ridiculous,” saying the caucus has not been properly consulted.
On Monday, Vancouver MP Don Davies said it is going to be difficult for Mulcair to stay until a permanent boss is chosen.
“We invited Tom to make his case as to why he should lead us and he got 48 per cent and, you know, numbers are real,” he said.
Quebec MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault also said he’s not sure if Mulcair should remain in the position.
“I have not made up my mind yet on this question,” he said. “It will be a discussion that we will have with the caucus members to see if that would be the ideal situation or if it should be something else.”
Montreal MP Alexandre Boulerice said he believes Mulcair ought to be able to stay on as long as he wants, but acknowledged others within the caucus may not agree.