Yesterday, Tom Walkom published an interesting piece on the trials and tribulations of Tom Mulcair. They are, Walkom wrote, not all Mulcair's fault. A lot of the blame can be laid at Jack Layton's feet:
As someone with a record on the party’s left, Layton was uniquely positioned to drag the NDP rightward — which he did with great skill.
Long-time policies that had little resonance with voters, such as one calling for Canada to pull out of NATO, were quietly jettisoned.On the symbolic side, Layton set in motion the process that would finally expunge any reference to “social ownership” from the party’s constitution.More to the point, he and his team of bright, modern politicos refocused the party on winning seats. Target demographics were identified and policies created to appeal to them.Balancing the budget (except during severe economic downturns) was enshrined as part of official NDP policy. As Mulcair would do later, Layton hewed religiously to fiscal conservatism.
During the 2008 election campaign, even as the world economy was collapsing and government revenues with it, Layton’s NDP — like the Liberals and Conservatives — promised a balanced budget.
When Mulcair also promised a balanced budget, he left an opening for Justin Trudeau's Liberals to run to the left of the NDP. It was a huge strategic error. But it was not just Mulcair's strategic error.
Among New Democrats, there has been a movement to canonize Layton. But there will be no renewal for Dippers until they completely come to terms with his legacy.
Sometimes, you have to speak ill of the dead.