NDP Leader Roger Duguay decided to leave provincial politics almost a month after failing in his bid to win a seat in the Sept. 27 election. Political leaders are almost expected to quit the moment after they thank their party's supporters on election night if they don't win the election.
So Duguay's departure is anything but unexpected. Duguay must be blamed for his failure to win his seat in Tracadie-Sheila and his party's laser focus on putting all of its resources on getting him elected in the northeastern riding.
There are arguments that could be made that Duguay could have won a seat if only he ran in Miramichi Bay-Neguac, the riding where he actually lives. The decision to run in Tracadie-Sheila was a political strategy that turned out to be an abject failure. There is no way to avoid that conclusion.
So the question then becomes did Duguay actually need to fall on his sword and resign his leadership?
Duguay barely left Tracadie-Sheila during the 32-day campaign and yet the NDP's share of the popular support across the province soared from 5.1 per cent in 2006 to about 10.3 per cent. Is that a reflection of the dismal NDP campaign in 2006, a tide running against the Liberals to the benefit of both the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP, or a new swing of support to the party?
Regardless of what motivated the swing to the NDP, Duguay proved that more than 10 per cent of New Brunswick voters were willing to vote for his party. The next NDP leader, who will be selected in a leadership race next year, will have to spend time gaining a profile that Duguay already possesses.
When PC Leader David Alward and Liberal Leader Shawn Graham were squabbling during the leaders' debates, Duguay seemed more in control. Defeated NDP Quispamsis candidate Matt Doherty told CBC News on Monday that Duguay had an "aura of graciousness." How would voters have reacted to a more aggressive NDP leader during those debates?
Duguay's NDP ran a campaign trumpeting fiscal austerity, which was an odd message for the normally left-wing NDP. Will the next leader embrace that campaign theme or forge a new direction? And it will remain to be seen whether the public will get behind a different strategy.
The election did not produce an heir apparent for the NDP. If the race comes down to a handful of defeated candidates, NDP members will have to ask themselves if they are actually better off without Duguay in 2014.
-- Daniel McHardie