Whew! That's over

The Telegram
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They were innocent little quotes, tweeted by Telegram reporter James McLeod.
He was listening in on a debate over CETA, the free trade deal with Europe, during the NDP convention over the weekend.

“Nothing good happens when big business takes over things …”

“CETA and Evil have both got four letters, and to me they’re both the same …”

It’s a revealing peek into the hyperbole that spills out when a party is trying to nail down policy. If it were a federal Conservative convention, you’d probably have heard the opposite: “Nothing good ever happens when big government takes over things,” or “CIDA and Evil have both got four letters…”

Politics is about forging a middle ground, one that isn’t going to scare off either end of the spectrum. One hopes the NDP is not advocating a holy war against corporations and trade deals, as much as some delegates might approve. Rather, they may simply call for a little more scrutiny and oversight.

One thing the NDP apparently doesn’t seem to want right now, however, is change — at least internally.

That’s clear from the results of a vote Sunday that ruled out a leadership review by a margin of three to one. Lorraine Michael will keep her job, at least until the next convention comes around and delegates vote again.

It must be a relief for Michael, who’s had a monkey on her back since last fall, when the party virtually imploded. A caucus revolt resulted in two of the five NDP MHAs breaking ranks. Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore eventually jumped in bed with the Liberals.

NDP poll numbers, which at one point briefly topped the Liberals and PCs, plummeted. In March of this year, they stood at 13 per cent.

Michael was uncharacteristically contrite on the weekend, shouldering much of the blame for not heeding the warning signs and communicating better. She also said she wants to move on and focus on the future.

What that future holds is hard to say, though. Michael has been head of the party for almost eight years. She was leader when the party saw its largest election victory ever in 2011, riding the wave of the federal “orange crush” under Jack Layton. But there has been little to crow about lately.

Their numbers creeped up for a couple of years, but started to sag more than a year ago, long before the meltdown last fall.

Right now, the party’s big “new” campaign is boosting the minimum wage; a noble cause, perhaps, but it’s a creaky old hobbyhorse and unlikely to garner much new interest.

What the NDP really needs is a fresh approach, a transfusion of new ideas. It won’t get it from the business-is-evil old guard, so it’ll have to look somewhere else.

Michael has no time to rest on her laurels. The party has endorsed the status quo when it comes to her leadership. But when it comes to policy, the status quo will get her nowhere.

Organizations: NDP

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