Reflections on the NDP and the way forward

Reflections on the NDP and the way forward
Posted on October 23, 2015 | Alex Cullen | Written on October 23, 2015
Letter type:

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

I am a member of the NDP, a former Ontario NDP candidate, and campaign worker who was part of the 2011 Orange Wave. For the past 4 years I have worked on Parliament Hill as an Assistant to an NDP Member of Parliament. These comments are my own.


 Well, Canada's 42nd federal election has come and gone, and, as usual, many dreams were reached and dashed. Our hopes, within the NDP, of forming the first New Democrat government of Canada - a possibility only months ago - will have to wait for another time. My best wishes to all those great candidates who lost: Megan Leslie in Nova Scotia, Paul Dewar in Ottawa Centre, Andrew Cash, Peggy Nash, Linda McQuaig and Olivia Chow in Toronto, and many others.

My 4 years working for an NDP MP on Parliament Hill was a great experience. I had the pleasure of working for a person (York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan) who understood the purpose of politics and, despite being a back-bench Opposition MP, worked hard and conscientiously for his community. He did his job in Parliament with integrity, and in York South-Weston with energy and compassion. Politics can be cruel, however, for his hard work mattered little in the calculus of party leaders, imagery and messaging. Toronto, like most of Canada, voted Liberal and that was that.

I enjoyed working with my colleagues in York South-Weston (a special shout-out to Paul Ferreira, Faisal Hassan and Ornella Roman-Millor), and watching the NDP caucus perform. Losing Jack Layton early in our mandate was a grievous blow; Tom Mulcair earned my respect in the House of Commons. We had great expectations - now the task is to rebuild.

We (the NDP) can count our blessings: we have retained a respectable base in Quebec, retained our hold in northern Ontario, Hamilton, and Windsor, and picked up seats in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and in B.C. With 44 seats, this is the second highest showing for the NDP. True, being blanked in the Maritimes (and in Toronto!) hurts, but we are back to where we were in 2006 (better, actually) when Jack Layton became Leader. We have seats in most urban areas (Montreal, Hamilton, Windsor, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria) but must rebuild in St. John's, Halifax, Ottawa and especially in Canada's largest city - Toronto.

While there are many strategies that will be discussed in the months ahead, there are two that stand out for me: (1) Expectations for the Trudeau Liberal government will be high, and it will be up to the NDP to keep the government accountable for the many promises it made, from climate change to infrastructure to public services. This is where being the conscience of Parliament will serve us well. (2) The NDP will need to rebuild its local municipal political infrastructure in those cities where we lost ground, particularly in Ottawa and Toronto, if it hopes to regain seats here. This latter will be a longer task, but absolutely necessary for future growth.

Tomorrow is always a new day and the work of governing this community we call Canada is never done. We can lick our wounds, learn and move forward - there's work for New Democrats to do! 

About The Author

AlexCullen's picture

Former OBE Trustee (1982-88), Ottawa City Councillor (1991-94), RMOC Councillor (1991-97), MPP Ottawa West (1997-99), Ottawa City Councillor (2000-2010). Economist, former Policy Analyst NHW (1982-91), former... More