After his attempt at rap last night as part of the Paul Dewar showcase, Charlie Angus might not appear like quite so serious a figure in the NDP as before. But the Northern Ontario MP—scourge of Conservatives on robocalls, champion of Attiwapiskat on the reserve’s abysmal housing—is still a big name as his party’s best Question Period performer.
And that counts for enough to make Angus’s decision to throw his support to Thomas Mulcair, after Dewar dropped out following his terrible showing on the first ballot here at the NDP convention, a significant move. I was struck by the nuance in Angus’s response when, just seconds before stepping into Mulcair’s section in the bleachers, he answered reporters’ questions.
Asked to explain his move, Angus stressed, not Mulcair’s policies or qualities, but rather the need for unity in the NDP’s Parliamentary caucus. “My decision to come over to him is [based on] the sense that we have to bring the party together now, so that on Monday we are absolutely unified in the House,” Angus said.
He went on: “So I have respect for all the candidates, but this is about bringing the party together and getting ready to be prime minister. I’m here in whatever capacity Thomas will take me.” And then he was led through a throng to where Mulcair was waiting to take his hand and raise their arms.
Angus is clearly worried that the leadership race might leave the party badly divided. It’s also possible to read into his choice of Mulcair a sensitivity for the question of the NDP’s position in Quebec. Angus doesn’t speak French and his first pick, Dewar, doesn’t either. Now, with Dewar out, Angus has gone to the fluently bilingual candidate best placed to hold the NDP’s 2011 breakthrough in Quebec.
The likely outcome here is far from clear. But what is increasingly obvious is that warnings about bitter divisions outlasting this race are seen by key party figures as more than just the inevitable rumblings born of heightened emotions during the leadership campaign.