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The Economist - A new New Democrat

Published: 31 Mar 2012

Most of his audience may not have recognised the pounding music that accompanied Thomas Mulcair when he took the stage at the New Democratic Party (NDP) convention in Toronto on March 24th, after being elected as the leader of Canada’s official opposition.

Most of his audience may not have recognised the pounding music that accompanied Thomas Mulcair when he took the stage at the New Democratic Party (NDP) convention in Toronto on March 24th, after being elected as the leader of Canada’s official opposition.

“Meet Me in the Basement” struck an oddly apposite note. Having misjudged his timing, Mr Mulcair had to rush through his pre-vote speech. The voting itself, most of it online and some of it in advance, dragged on through 12 hours, four rounds and a computer crash. And Mr Mulcair has taken on one of the tougher jobs in Canada…

Mr Mulcair’s elevation to the leadership shores up the NDP’s novel base in Quebec. But he will have to reassure supporters in the west and Ontario, even as he gives Quebeckers a bigger role in the party, according to Antonia Maioni, a political scientist at McGill University in Montreal. The NDP’s old guard will also resist Mr Mulcair’s desire to move the party closer to the centre.

There is no need for two Liberal parties, warned Brian Topp, the runner-up for the leadership. A first test for the new leader will be to respond to the Conservative budget on March 29th. This is likely to make politically popular cuts to the federal bureaucracy, whose trade unions back the New Democrats.

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