Parliament’s one year mark offers a few surprises

Last year, shortly after the federal election, I read an analysis that showed how close New Democrats came to winning a minority government – within 10,000 votes across the country.  If you were to have told someone something like that eight years ago, they might have slapped their knee and asked you if you had any other good ones; but as Canada’s 41st Parliament passes the one year mark, the anecdote does not seem so out of whack which is a testament to how far the NDP has travelled in less than a decade.

Eight years ago, New Democrats were settling in under their new leader, Jack Layton.  Canadians were unsure of who he was and his message seemed overly optimistic, especially when he brashly announced that he was running to become Prime Minister of Canada. 

We all know the story of Jack’s even-paced climb through the Canadian electorate (he always used the analogy of a marathon over a sprint) and how he connected with more and more voters to the point of a historic break though one year ago.  We also know that when he tragically lost his battle with cancer last summer, many pundits expected New Democrats to fold up our tent and retreat to the sidelines.

In politics, as in life, you can’t ever tell what the future will bring and I write this column amidst a mood of optimism for New Democrat fortunes that few expected would survive from last summer. 

While the press may have wanted for more drama, we ran a scandal-free leadership campaign that culminated in the election of Thomas Mulcair.  Since his term as leader began, New Democrats have sent a strong message to Canadians that we are a serious, structured and strong opposition. 

We have seen consistent polling numbers that reflect both approval for our work and frustration with the Conservative government who have been plagued by scandal, secrecy and mismanagement. 

While Stephen Harper is attacking pensions, cutting health care and gutting environmental protection, we have been fighting him in the House of Commons and keeping our promise to the millions of Canadians who trusted us with their votes.   We understand that Canadians want parliament to focus on jobs and the well being of Canadians – not excuses or favours for special interest groups and well connected friends.

New Democrats are holding these tired Conservatives to account and showing Canadians that we have the team, capability and leader to deliver a better government.  

The one year mark in parliament is the end of the beginning for our new team—and the beginning of the end for a government that thinks it can ignore the priorities of Canadians.   We are working with an eye to 2015 when a New Democrat government will be something Canadians can look forward to.    A lot has changed in one year and quite a bit more has changed in the last eight.