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NDP celebrates Mulcair win, but some activists anxious about party future

NDP's newly elected leader, Thomas Mulcair. Photo by David P. Ball

As Thomas Mulcair, leader-elect from the New Democratic Party's nail-biting convention this weekend, faced off against the Tories today, he won the praise of fellow party members for targeting the Conservatives' approach to jobs and the economy in his first question to the government.

Mulcair - known for his combative approach to politics - alleviated some members' concerns about his plans for the NDP by renewing Vancouver MP Libby Davies' position as Deputy Leader. Davies was a prominent and outspoken Brian Topp backer in the race, and comes from the party's  activist wing often at odds with Mulcair in the past.

But in the wake of his widely anticipated win, some NDP supporters and social movement activists across the country expressed concerns about the direction of the party under the new leader.

Veteran activist Judy Rebick - author of Occupy This!  and CBC commentator - told the Vancouver Observer that Mulcair's "patriarchal, it's my way or the highway" style could merely accelerate the party's rightward drift.

“(Mulcair) is positioned well to the right of party on a number of questions: on Israel, on the tar sands,” Rebick said. “For heaven's sake, he's not even for the decriminalization of marijuana.

“He's to the right of the Liberals on that. Will he respect party policy? I don't know. I'm not convinced he will.”

Mulcair, a former Quebec Liberal, is a relative newcomer to the NDP, having joined the party in 2007 (after reportedly considering his options with the Conservatives and and Greens as well). While the NDP establishment has been unanimous in its message of unity and praise for the Quebec MP since his anointing, words of frustration and disillusionment echoed amongst grassroots activists across Facebook – decrying what many see as the social democratic party's abandonment of social movements that traditionally had a place within the NDP.

"RIP NDP," wrote Montreal activist and Media Co-op founder Dru Oja Jay on Facebook. "Whatever feeble hopes one might have had that the federal NDP would be any different than its provincial counterparts, that the federal NDP would strengthen rather than leech the power of social movements, that it would not immediately shift to the right when it gained power, can be put to rest for the next few years, can be put to rest for the next few years. Mulcair's views on foreign policy are retrograde, starting with his hateful and reactionary stance towards Palestinians."

Mulcair's past comments about the Middle East - in which he declared himself a "supporter of Israel in all situations and circumstances" -- have troubled many activists.  

His seemingly softened stance toward oil sands development, as well, sugggests a blurring of lines between the NDP and the overtly pro-oil Conservatives. In a recent interview with the Toronto Starhe said: “You’ll never hear me speaking against the development of the oil sands.”

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