One of Tom Mulcair's most vocal critics in the lead-up to his failed leadership bid says the NDP Leader "should have read the tea leaves" and stepped down before losing more than half his support in a stunning vote on Sunday.
Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), said Mr. Mulcair lost his chance for a "dignified" exit, such as that taken by former prime minister Stephen Harper, who resigned as leader following his Conservative Party's loss in last fall's federal election.
"He should have read the tea leaves before the convention," Mr. Yussuff told The Globe and Mail in an interview on Monday.
"It's not the way he should have gone. It should have been on his own terms … it should have been more dignified."
Mr. Yussuff was the first labour leader to voice his opposition to Mr. Mulcair's leadership before the party's convention last weekend, saying he didn't deserve another term as NDP Leader. Mr. Yussuff didn't mention Mr. Mulcair in his speech at the convention, however, saying he didn't want to make it personal.
Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, came out at the convention saying she wouldn't support Mr. Mulcair either.
Mr. Yussuff had predicted Mr. Mulcair would win less than 60 per cent of the vote. But that prediction turned starker when Mr. Mulcair won only 48 per cent – automatically triggering a leadership race, although he has vowed to stay on until his replacement is named.
Just as Mr. Mulcair failed to connect with his grassroots, union leaders say the same thing happened with their membership. Even though six major union leaders said they would vote in favour of Mr. Mulcair's leadership, the unions' members didn't all follow suit.
"The labour leaders need to learn from this as well," Unifor president Jerry Dias, who voted to support Mr. Mulcair's leadership for at least another two years, said on Monday.
"The rank and file within the party understands they don't have to have blind loyalty to the labour leaders. And the labour leaders don't have to have blind loyalty to the party."
Even members of Mr. Mulcair's own caucus say he was a
marginal presence at his own convention.
"People didn't see Tom all weekend," Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus said. "By Saturday, people were starting to think he wasn't all that interested.… The one person who really needed to be there wasn't."
And when it came time for Mr. Mulcair to make his pitch to delegates, many were underwhelmed.
"I was certainly willing to listen to what he had to say," said James Kosowan, president of the Edmonton Strathcona federal NDP riding association. "That speech and how it came off was like, you really don't understand some of the problems of the party and what we have to fix."
Mr. Mulcair's speech was big on NDP policies on issues such as child care and income inequality, but many agree that it failed to make a case for his leadership.
"It was so vacuous and it addressed nothing," Mr. Kosowan said.
That lack of vision appears to have sealed Mr. Mulcair's fate as the first federal party leader to go down at a convention.
When the voting results were read out abruptly in French to the hall, many sat in stunned silence, trying to absorb what had happened.
The NDP's federal council will now begin the process of launching a leadership race, which could take up to two years. Mr. Mulcair has suggested that he will continue to serve as leader for a year or more, although some New Democrats would like the party to follow the Conservative Party and appoint an interim leader.