NDP MPs old and new return to much-reduced caucus

Canada Politics
NDP MPs old and new return to much-reduced caucus

When the next session of Parliament convenes in a few weeks, the NDP will be returning with a much-smaller slate of MPs that includes both party veterans and new faces. 

Though the party’s 44 elected MPs still count as their second-highest total in Parliament, it’s still considerably less than the 95 they had as Official Opposition when Parliament was dissolved this summer. 

That total is also missing several of the NDP’s best-known MPs after some surprising defeats on Oct. 19. Megan Leslie (Halifax), Peggy Nash (Parkdale-High Park), Jack Harris (St. John’s East), Andrew Cash (Davenport) and Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook) all lost in ridings they were expected to hold on to. 

And perhaps most significantly, the NDP lost their status as the Official Opposition—which means a new role in a Parliament where it is significant outnumbered by both the Liberals and the Conservatives. This isn’t a new role for the party, but it is under Tom Mulcair’s leadership — and with the Liberals now holding a majority, he’ll have to adjust to the fact that they don’t necessarily need to work with his party. 

Mulcair has stayed out of the public eye—and away from his caucus—since his party’s losses on election night. But he has already signalled his intention to stay on as NDP leader, and will ask party vets and defeated MPs for advice on what went wrong in a campaign that the NDP appeared to be leading in early August. 

But while the party did lose some significant MPs in the election, several veterans are returning to the House of Commons. And though many of the newbie MPs who won seats in 2011 weren’t re-elected, 16 of the NDP’s 44 MPs are first-timers. 

Here’s a look at some veteran and rookie MPs in the NDP caucus. 

Newbies

Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford): MacGregor is new to the House of Commons but not to the NDP, having served as now-retired MP Jean Crowder’s assistant. He’s lived in his riding for nearly a quarter of a century, and put in a lot of face time with local residents to win the NDP nomination, so he should already be well-known at home. 

Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona): Blaikie has a strong party legacy: his father is former NDP MP Bill Blaikie. He won a tight race in his Winnipeg riding, edging out the Conservative candidate by less than 100 votes. Blaikie is an electrician by trade and sits on the Winnipeg Labour Council executive. 

Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West): Benson’s history with United Way — both as local CEO and implementer of its aboriginal strategy — fits well with the party. She was the inaugural Justice of the Peace for the Victims of Domestic Violence Act in Saskatchewan, and she was recognized with a Woman of Distinction Award from the YWCA in 2014. Benson’s win in the urban riding was the party’s first in the province. 

Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East): One of a record number of visible-minority MPs elected, Kwan was Vancouver’s youngest ever elected city councillor in 1993. Kwan was a provincial MLA in B.C. before winning the nomination in her Vancouver riding, which was held for years by Libby Davies before her retirement. 

Richard Cannings (South Okanagan-West Kootenay): Cannings’ win in this interior B.C. seat took some territory away from the Conservatives, who have traditionally dominated there. The new MP has a long history of environmental work: a decade on the province’s Environmental Appeal Board, eight years as co-chair on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and a dozen books on B.C.’s natural history.

Erin Weir (Regina-Lewvan): Weir is one of the youngest members of the House of Commons, at just 33 years old, and his race was another tight one. But he does bring public-service experience to the role, thanks to time spent working at the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Privy Council Office and the Department of Finance. He also worked as a senior economist for the International Trade Union Confederation in Belgium, and ran unsuccessfully for the leadership of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party in 2013. 

Veterans 

Tom Mulcair (Outremont): For a while it looked like the NDP leader might lose his own riding, but Mulcair managed to win comfortably in Outremont. And despite the party’s significant losses in this election, Mulcair intends to stay on as leader. He will not be the leader of the Official Opposition, however, which means a diminished role in the Houses. And he now has to face a caucus that must be wondering just what happened to the party in October. 

Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinonge): Brosseau was a rookie MP herself in the last election but she quickly proved herself as a valuable member of the caucus. She worked hard to both learn French and learn about her riding — one she had never been to, much less lived in or knew well. Her work led her to a role as vice-chair for her party, and it will be interesting to see where she fits now that the NDP is back to third-party status.

Matthew Dubé (Beloiel-Chambly): When Dubé first won his Quebec seat in 2011, he was one of a group of MPs referred to as the McGill 4: a group of four young MPs, still in or just out of university, who were elected in the province’s Orange Wave. On Oct. 20, Dubé was the only one of the four left standing after a tight race. 

Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway): Davies has been active for the NDP in Parliament whether it’s been with the third party or the Opposition, introducing a total of 23 bills and 22 motions so far. His seat apparently was a legitimately safe NDP riding, despite the wave of new Liberals elected in B.C. — he won easily to get his third term in Ottawa. 

Niki Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski): An NDP MP since 2008, Ashton has made northern and indigenous issues a key focus of her time in Parliament. She served as the NDP’s Aboriginal Affairs critic, and has strongly advocated for an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women — something Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has promised to address.   

Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe): Mathyssen is now one of the NDP’s longest-standing MPs, after winning a fourth term in Parliament last month. Her win helped knock out the Conservatives from the southern Ontario city, including MP and cabinet minister Ed Holder who lost his seat to another NDP candidate.