New Brunswick

Dominic Cardy refuses to endorse Tom Mulcair, skips party convention

New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is skipping the federal party’s weekend convention that will be voting on Tom Mulcair’s future as leader and he is raising concerns about the direction the party is taking on key issues.

New Brunswick NDP leader was troubled by positions federal party took during 2015 campaign

Delegates at the NDP's upcoming convention in Edmonton will vote on Tom Mulcair's leadership as well as a series of proposals that could return the party to its social democratic roots. (Jim Young/Reuters)

New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is skipping the federal party's weekend convention that will be voting on Tom Mulcair's future as leader and he is raising concerns about the direction the party is taking on key issues.

Cardy would not say whether he supports Mulcair continuing on at the helm of the federal party. He said he has an opinion but will leave it to the New Democrats heading to the Edmonton convention to decide on the federal leader's fate.

But Cardy was quick to point out problems that he has with the path the party is taking on several policy fronts dating back to last fall's federal election campaign.

"With the way the federal NDP campaign rolled out last year, from around halfway through the campaign, there were a lot of positions that I didn't feel particularly comfortable with," he said.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy will not attend the Edmonton convention and did not say whether he support's Mulcair staying on the federal party's leader. (CBC)
"I'm not particularly interested in spending my weekend talking with the party as they decide which of the positions they are going to take going into the future because I don't have any real confidence that they will be kept to."

In particular, Cardy said he was frustrated by Mulcair's decision to come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal during the campaign even though he hadn't read the text.  The provincial leader said losing free trade agreements would hurt New Brunswick industries.

Cardy also said he was "very disheartened" by the NDP's position on the war in Syria.

"The NDP federally took a position saying that we would disengage completely from all military action in the Middle East, something I thought was both not responsible and not something that the party agreed to, which is my core concern," he said.

Politics of endorsement

J.P. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, said Cardy's lack of an endorsement mirrors stances by other federal high-profile New Democrats.

J.P. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, said Cardy's lack of support for Mulcair could be troubling for the federal leader. (CBC)
"A number of MPs within the federal caucus who are sitting on the fence and are not coming in strong support of Mulcair, that is problematic if you are not coming out in support, it is almost as bad as showing clear opposition," he said.

Mulcair went into the 2015 federal election campaign as Leader of the Official Opposition, after winning 103 seats in 2011. The NDP had a strong start to the campaign and Mulcair's party enjoyed a period when it was leading in public opinion polls.

But the party started losing ground to the Liberals and after all the ballots were counted on Oct. 19, the NDP emerged with 44 seats in the House of Commons.

Campaign post-mortem

The party started a post-mortem on the election campaign, which was led by Rebecca Blaikie, the party president, who said the NDP was "out of synch" with voters.

The report said the party did not have a "strong, simple narrative" and there was criticism of the NDP's promise to balance the budget.

Rebecca Blaikie, the federal party's president, said in a campaign post-mortem that the NDP was out of synch with voters. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
The provincial NDP leader said he is also worried the federal party could be pulled hard to the left of the political spectrum by embracing the so-called Leap Manifesto.

The policy, which was driven by Avi Lewis and author Naomi Klein, calls for dramatic change, urging a transition away from fossil fuels, a rejection of new pipelines and an upending of the capitalist system on which the economy is based.

Heading into the Edmonton convention, Lewis, along with former MPs Libby Davies and Craig Scott, are circulating a plan to entrench the manifesto's aims in the party's policies.

Stop 'fighting battles of 50 years ago'

Cardy said the party needs to think seriously about how it will approach policy issues in the future.

Cardy said he had problems with several policy stances the party took during the 2015 election campaign. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
"I'm very concerned the NDP seems to be a position certainly at some levels including federally is retreating to a comfortable 1960s hole in the wall and believing somehow that is radical and progressive," he said.

"I don't think fighting battles of 50 years ago is radical or progressive. The world has changed a lot."

Cardy said it "would be a serious mistake" to endorse the manifesto. He said Mulcair must articulate his vision for the party while in Edmonton.

"I hope he addresses that if he wants to be remaining in a leadership position that he very clearly spells out what he wants to do, which I think trying to straddle a mushy middle is going to alienate everyone and there is no way ahead for that," he said.

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