The House

Megan Leslie: I didn't expect to lose

Outgoing NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie reflects on her party's drubbing in the Oct. 19 election, her time in opposition and what the future holds for one of the party's brightest young leaders.
NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie on election night Oct. 19, 2015. Leslie was defeated by Liberal Andy Fillmore in the riding of Halifax. (CBC)

The drubbing the New Democratic Party faced on election night was far worse than any party member had expected.

Not only did the party lose more than half of its caucus, some of its brightest stars went down to defeat. There was perhaps no one brighter than Megan Leslie, the NDP MP for Halifax, and the party's deputy leader and environment critic.

"I'll be honest, I didn't expect to lose," Leslie said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

"I figured it out on election night.'" 

NDP MP Megan Leslie was defeated Monday night, but she received very kind words from colleague, Lisa Raitt. She was so touched, she couldn't hold back her tears. 0:53

Leslie says that her party's campaign, which started out with such promise, faced strong head winds in the final hours of the campaign.

"For 10 weeks [the campaign] was amazing and then in that final week, something changed dramatically," Leslie said.

What exactly was behind the big shift is hard to pinpoint. Perhaps it was the party's drop in a number of polls that drove skittish 'change' voters into the Liberal camp in an effort to turf Stephen Harper once and for all.

"I don't think it's any one thing, I don't think it's one policy, one person, one press release, I think it's a lot of factors. People really did want change," Leslie said.

"I thought we were doing a good job of presenting what the alternative to Harper would be. But, in the end, people overwhelmingly chose the Liberals."

Whatever the motivating factor, the Crimson Wave caught party stalwarts off guard.

"We are a bit in shock," Leslie said of her colleagues, and party staffers. "We didn't expect this kind of outcome, we really were hoping for better. Having said that, we need to find out what went wrong and do a bit of that analysis."

Leslie won't miss 'mean' Conservatives

Leslie says while she's heartbroken by the NDP loss, there's one consolation prize: Harper is gone. 

"We've been under Harper for a long time. It's not just about the Conservatives, it's about the policies they brought in, the way they did business in Parliament, the constant time allocation, and closure, the meanness, I mean, they were mean.

"It's going to be a real cultural shift in the House of Commons." 

Could she work for the Liberals?

Before the Liberal surge on election day, there was a lot of chatter among partisans, and political observers, about closer cooperation between the country's two major left-of-centre parties.

Since the 2011, some politicians on both sides of the aisle have floated the idea of a "unite the left" coalition of sorts, or a merger of the two parties.

"There are absolutely things in common, no doubt, but the NDP is a social democratic party and we believe in a role for government in making our communities stronger," Leslie said.

"That social democratic lens of our will inform the work that we do in either supporting, or opposing ... that will define our relationship with the Liberal."

But Leslie wouldn't rule out working for the Liberal Party in the next term.

She said while she's still a committed NDP partisan, if she was recruited by Trudeau to work on a particular issue, such as electoral reform or the environment, she would "100 per cent" consider it. 

As for a return to electoral politics, that's out of the question for now. Leslie said she needs some rest after keeping a gruelling schedule as a member of parliament.