MONTREAL — The soul-searching is starting among members of the NDP after the stunning collapse of their vote in the federal election.
Party insiders say they saw the electoral freight train that was Justin Trudeau’s campaign coming down the tracks as much as a month ago, but many in the senior leadership refused to believe it.
Even still, the insiders says the scope of the loss and the prospect of a long, painful, rebuilding process are just beginning to sink in.
Some of the party’s brightest public lights have been extinguished. High-profile MPs, including deputy leader Megan Leslie, Peter Stoffer, Jack Harris, Paul Dewar, Nycole Turmel and Peggy Nash lost their seats.
Mulcair plans to spend the day calling all members of his team — elected and defeated — to praise them for their work on the campaign.
The question on the minds of many people outside the party is whether leader Mulcair will stick around to lead a vastly smaller caucus of 44 MPs, especially when some in the party have questioned whether he dragged the NDP too far to the centre in a failed effort to make it electable.
Robin Sears, who once served as the NDP’s national director, says the party is not inclined to turf leaders.
“No. 1, you have a huge investment in the brand of the leader,” Sears said. “Even if things have gone badly on election night, why would you write that off immediately?
“No. 2, post-election-defeat leadership contests are never pleasant. They’re always divisive. Why would you do that if you didn’t have to either?”
Sears said he has always been “quite baffled by the enthusiasm of other political tribes to kill the king” as soon as defeat has set in.
“It has so many negative consequences,” he said.
How much of the blame for blowing a first-place lead and taking the party to a third-place finish will rest on Mulcair’s shoulders remains to be seen.
McMaster political science professor Peter Graefe does not anticipate much movement on the leadership front for at least a couple of months as the party reviews its financial situation following the campaign.
“I presume the main strategy, regardless of whether he stays on or not, is to figure out how to get the party finances in order as compared to running a leadership campaign, which pulls resources away from the central party,” Graefe said.
“I think in the short run, people will be sort of sitting back. I think at that point the question becomes whether some kind of mutiny comes to the fore.”