Maybe the New Democratic Party should forget about power and go back to its long tradition of acting as the conscience of the country. It should come to terms with the fact that its surprise leap to official opposition in the 2011 federal election was a fluke that will not repeat itself.
If a renewed Liberal Party with an attractive young leader in tune with the times had not been in its way, it would have been a different story for the NDP last October. After having wisely moved his New Democrats into the mainstream, Tom Mulcair might have beaten Stephen Harper and be our prime minister today. But now, the centre left is entirely occupied by the Trudeau Liberals, and chances are they will be ensconced in government for years to come. The political spectrum has no place for the NDP, except at the far left.
Moreover, delegates at the party's convention in Edmonton last weekend embraced the Leap Manifesto, a document that would make the NDP unelectable if it becomes party policy. But instead of rejecting it as a utopian and bombastic rant, they voted to study it at the grassroots level during the months preceding a leadership convention.
This in itself shows that the New Democrats – at least a sizable portion of them – are more interested in ideology than in governing. They will be happy to go back to their former marginal status, when they would remake the world on paper and lecture the masses from the moral high ground without having to deal with the messy job of doing politics in the real world.
At worst, the NDP will gradually fall into irrelevance. At best, it will endorse the useful role of a watchdog over the Trudeau government. It will keep the Liberals on their toes (as Bernie Sanders has done so successfully with Hillary Clinton, who has moved toward more progressive positions under pressure from the Vermont senator).
Meanwhile, who would want to lead a party saddled with a radical faction that seems to have won the hearts of the most committed activists? The Leapers, with their ecological and apocalyptic dogma that has received the blessing of Stephen Lewis, a revered figure within the party, will be more uncompromising than the Waffle movement of the 1970s. Moderate leadership contenders such as MPs Nathan Cullen or Alexandre Boulerice would have a difficult time dealing with the Leapers.
But what if the future leader came from the Leapers? Avram David Lewis would be the ideal answer to Justin Trudeau. Born in 1968, Avi Lewis, too, exudes youth and energy. He, too, is handsome. He, too, is hip and media savvy, having been a host for MuchMusic and several CBC public affairs programs besides making documentaries. He, too, has a glamorous wife, Naomi Klein, a celebrity in her own right and an icon of the ecology movement. These two are the power couple of the Canadian Left.
And there's more! Avi Lewis's political heritage is longer than that of Mr. Trudeau: He is the son of Stephen Lewis, former head of the Ontario NDP and UN diplomat; and grandson of David Lewis, who led the federal NDP from 1971 to 1975.
Some time ago, Avi Lewis said he was not interested in the leadership. But if the party adopts the manifesto he supports, wouldn't he be tempted? This is what many New Democrats are hoping for.