A comment that might have raised a few nervous chuckles a year ago has helped steel the resolve of New Democratic Party candidates who will run in the next provincial election.
Two local provincial NDP candidates, Red Deer City worker Derek Seelinger (Red Deer North) and former city councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer (Red Deer South), and about a dozen supporters met in a Gasoline Alley coffee shop on Friday morning with Quebec NDP MP Thomas Mulcair, one of eight people hoping to step into Jack Layton’s shoes.
“Nobody can replace Jack,” said Watkinson-Zimmer of the charismatic leader who died on Aug. 22, just months after the federal NDP had the most outstanding election victory in its history, unseating the Liberals on May 2 to form the Official Opposition.
However, the NDP needs a new leader who can carry Layton’s work forward, she said.
That momentum may have slowed, but it’s still strong, Mulcair said in a short speech to the gathering.
Mulcair spoke about how the ideological stance of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government can be shaken down.
“Something astonishing is going to happen in the history of Canadian politics in October of 2015, when we form the first NDP government,” said Mulcair, MP for Outremont since 2007 and a former cabinet minister with Jean Charest’s Liberal government.
Interviewed afterward, Mulcair said becoming the Official Opposition is a state of fact.
“We’ve got to go from that state of fact to a state of mind. We’ve got to showcase the ability, the talent, the beliefs and the competencies that we have and show Canadians one thing: That we’re capable of forming the next government,” he said.
Mulcair earned big points from Seelinger and Watkinson-Zimmer for being the first of eight leadership candidates to stop in Red Deer.
“At this point, I’m well impressed with him,” said Watkinson-Zimmer, who anticipates that a provincial election will be called in March.
“He’s having a ball and it’s been very positive for him,” she said.
Seelinger said Mulcair’s visit will have a strong affect on his own campaign.
“I think it will help my campaign by showing people, look, there’s federal interest in Red Deer. Red Deer isn’t just this, to coin a phrase, Blue C Conservative state, which it has been for years and years.”
NDP members vote for their new federal leader on March 24, either online, by mail or in person during the convention, being held in Toronto.
The list of candidates remains open until Jan. 24.