Constance Barnes: This is no time to throw NDP Leader Tom Mulcair under the bus

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      As I was biking home after work the other day in the fabulous pouring rain, I was thinking about how funny it is that almost every time I share with friends or Vancouver Centre folks that I am heading to Edmonton to the federal NDP convention this April their eyes light up and they say “oh man it’s going to be a shit show ”. I usually just smile and let them continue with their thoughts, concerns, anger and lots and lots of opinions.

      Everybody has an opinion on what the NDP did wrong, what we did well, what we should have done to win, and what we should have done when the momentum turned—when the numbers began to slip, when the press became transfixed with the niqab or our party’s balanced-budget commitment.

      Then there is Tom—everybody has an opinion about Tom. People get downright roweled up with personal thoughts, remedies on how to “fix” Tom, and sometimes show straight up love for Tom and all he stands for. But there's lots of “what the heck happened to the Tom we all loved from the House of Commons?” They say they missed “angry Tom”, the “real Tom” or simply “will the real Tom Mulcair please stand up?”

      I am one of the lucky ones who got the opportunity last week to sit with Tom in my riding in the Creekside Community Centre for two hours for an open and very honest chat. We were graced by some of the amazing people that were part of my campaign team.

      Opportunities like these are times when I reflect on my own life and try to evaluate the things that I would have done differently, things I am not proud of but have made me the person that I am today. These experiences have taught me to take pause, look at the bigger picture, and not so swiftly throw somebody under the bus but instead give them a second chance.

      Vancouver gave me a second chance, my family gave me a second chance and I came back stronger more focused and wiser after listening, learning, and growing with the people that had supported me in the beginning of my political career. Yes, there are some that have kept their distance but in all honesty I cannot be focused on that, I need to stay focused on the work that still needs to be done… it’s not all about me.

      For those that know me know that I am pretty much a straight shooter. I have been known to struggle with my filters, as my kids can attest, and as much as I understand the message box I must stay true to Constance Barnes. My meeting with Tom went something like this: “Great view from here isn’t it? The sun on False Creek is gorgeous. You’ve met my team right? So Tom, can we talk honestly?”

      Tom blew me away because the more I asked the more he shared. Yes, he said I was way over scripted, yes, he admitted we had way too many platform issues, yes, he said the first debate was not ideal. Tom was incredibly truthful and as we sat there and talked, I shared some of why I decided to run: it was because of Tom. I couldn’t imagine a stronger more powerful voice with clear and determined convictions that I would want to learn from or be mentored by.

      Aside from a brilliant platform that included such stellar promises as $15 a day childcare, bringing back a housing strategy, stopping the tanker traffic in English Bay, and reopening Kits Coast Guard to name a few, in Tom we had presence like never before here in Vancouver. Tom came to Vancouver Centre more than five times. Each event drew literally thousands of people to cheer and listen to him speak. During his visit to Jack Poole Plaza, on a gorgeous but crisp morning, more than 5,000 people came out to support him and I had the great pleasure of introducing him.

      So, always I get the question “are you going to support Tom as leader?”

      My answer, well-thought through and truly going with my gut, is yes!

      Tom is still the Tom we all saw in the lead, making us proud, working nonstop, travelling across Canada talking to people, and giving us all hope for change. Tom is still brilliant and he’s learned that he needs to be just that—the Tom we all saw and knew could make change in this country.

      Like a leader, Tom has acknowledged and taken full responsibility for the loss that the NDP suffered. That being said, the strategic voting, the media, and Canadians willing to do almost anything to get rid of Harper all became a perfect storm.

      The NDP were directly in the path of that storm and sadly, some amazing MPs fell victim to its magnitude.

      I will attend the convention in Edmonton as a delegate from Vancouver Centre proudly supporting Tom Mulcair. I’ll be there with my Mulcair button on, an acceptance of his apology and his commitment to do better the next time around. I believe in second chances and for a man that puts his life, his heart and his soul into his work, he deserves one.

      I still feel great pride to have run with Tom Mulcair. He is an amazing person and who has given his all. I know how broken-hearted I was so I can only imagine how Tom feels, but here he is back in the saddle. I for one will do all I can to keep him steady and riding forward with strength and courage.

      Constance Barnes is a former chair of the Vancouver park board and ran as an NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre in the 2015 federal election.