After an emergency meeting in Ottawa on July 27, the NDP caucus has endorsed first-time MP Nycole Turmel as the interim leader, as per leader Jack Layton’s suggestion. Layton, who is taking a leave of absence from the leadership to focus on a new fight against cancer, pointed out at the time that the caucus unanimously elected Turmel to chair the national caucus.
“We want to be ready to fight for the Canadian family, as is our program in the NDP, and we want to make sure that we are ready to fight Harper’s government agenda. We are there for family, we are there to support pensions, healthcare, and we want to make sure that we’ll do our job and support that.”
Libby Davies, one of the two deputy leaders, feels that the party is up for the challenge in Layton’s absence.
“There is great capacity in this caucus,” Davies says. “There’s tremendous strength. You could feel it in the room today — it was quite incredible both in terms of support for Jack, but also for the job that we’ve got to do as the official Opposition. There is a great opportunity for us here to show ourselves to be a strong and credible official Opposition that’s tough and principled, to deal with the Conservative agenda.”
As for her own duties as deputy leader, Davies says that both she and Thomas Mulcair, her co-deputy leader, are ready to support Turmel if the federal council agrees with the caucus’s unanimous decision to name her the interim leader.
“Those of us that have parliamentary experience, we will obviously help her in any way that we can in the House, dealing with whatever,” Davies says. “There’s a really good sense of teamwork that’s already developed. That’s going to get stronger.
“I feel a great sense of obligation and responsibility to help her in any way, and I know that Tom does as well,” Davies says. “Will it change what we do? Well it will in some ways, because with Jack — we always advise him and we worked with Jack, but Jack was way ahead of us all the time, and so obviously we’ll be there to support Nycole and assist her in any way that we can as she takes on this new challenge of being the interim leader.”
Given that such a visible leader is stepping back, does this place any additional pressure on new MPs to perform more? Randall Garrison, the party’s queer issues critic, doesn’t think so.
“First of all, if anyone can defeat cancer twice in a row, it’s Jack,” Garrison says. “He’s such an incredible fighter and an incredible optimist that I fully expect to see him back here in the fall. He was going to take some time off in the summer anyway, and as far as that affecting me — not in a big way.
“The other thing is he’s certainly challenged all of us to be on our A-game already, and so we just continue with that challenge he’s given us. A lot of the new members have important critic roles and things to do, so we keep doing those.”