Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Race for Stornoway

The NDP leadership race appears to have solidified, with nine candidates vying for the keys to Stornoway.

While I doubt any of the contenders are causing Stephen Harper sleepless nights, it's a diverse field which is good news for the Dippers. Every true-orange New Democrat will be able to find a candidate to their liking, and a lot of membership forms will get sold. Nearly every imaginable demographic is represented...all that's missing is Pat Martin to provide comic relief.

It's too early to seriously handicap the field, but a nine candidate field and a 5-month race means it would be incredibly premature to declare this a Topp-Mulcair showdown. Someone will emerge from the pack to challenge the frontrunners, and it's likely to come down to second and third choices.

Pundits Guide appears to be the place to be for NDP leadership news, while Far and Wide puts the candidates under a Liberal lens.

Here, I present a brief overview of the field:

Topp of the Pack

Brian Topp: The media crowned him as the race's frontrunner within hours of Jack Layton's death, though that may have simply been a case of journalists unable to resist a good pun. Topp has the most establishment support, but as Alison Redford and Christy Clark recently showed, that may not necessarily be an asset.

Topp has released a "tax the rich" proposal which should be popular with NDP members, but it's not without risks. I can guarantee eight other leadership camps will be whispering about the Tory advertising onslaught this would bring about, in an effort to brand Topp as unelectable.

The Challenger

Thomas Mulcair: The longtime NDP Dauphin has had a rocky start to the campaign, spending more time complaining about the rules than giving Dippers a reason to vote for him. Still, Mulcair is experienced and is the party's best bet at holding Quebec (at least according to Thomas Mulcair).

Unlike Topp, Mulcair's pitch has been directed more at the general public than the NDP faithful, promising to ween the NDP off their union dependence. He's clearly trying to portray himself as the candidate most likely to lead the NDP to the promised land. That's not a bad pitch - even though federal NDP members might be less concerned with power than most, it's a message that should resonate with provincial Dippers in BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia who have tasted power. Hell, who am I kidding - everyone wants to be in power.

Dark Horses

Paul Dewar: Dewar would probably be my choice at this point if I had a bit more orange in my veins but I'm always a sucker for an underdog. He's a good communicator, though some questions remain about his french.

His urban strategy is smart politics, since that's where the votes are in a one-member-one-vote leadership race.

Peggy Nash: She's relatively well know and relatively well liked, and I imagine she has a good network of NDP, union, and activist contacts to solicit for support. I can't imagine anyone is overly excited by her, but she's the highest profile woman in the race and might have some appeal as a consensus candidate.

Nathan Cullen: His proposal to work with the Liberals in some ridings will help him stand out, but it might make him too polarizing a figure to get the second a third ballot support he'd need to win. He has a strong social media presence so far, and all indications are he'll get his fair share of media coverage.

Cullen also has geography working in his favour. He's the lone BC candidate, and one-third of all current NDP members are from that province.

Long Shots

Robert Chisolm: On paper, Chisolm is a strong candidate - he's a former union leader and former leader of the Nova Scotia NDP. He has the ability to clean up in Nova Scotia, but lack of name recognition will be an obstacle elsewhere. He's going to need to find an issue to call his own, to distinguish himself from the crowded field.

Romeo Saganash: Saganash was the first candidate out of the gate, and is intriguing enough to warrant a close look - he's from Quebec, is fluent in English and French, and has been actively involved with the Cree Regional Authority. I'll confess to knowing little about him, but if his political skills are polished, he's likely to get media attention and could be this season's break-out star.

Martin Singh: Singh is likely the least known candidate in the contest and doesn't have the House of Commons platform to raise his profile. I can't see him winning, but his pro-business stance could help him stand out.

Singh is from Nova Scotia, but launched his campaign in Brampton - his support in the Sikh community could make him a formidable threat in a one-member one-vote contest, and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see him in the top 5 or 6 on the first ballot. Growing from there will be more challenging.

Niki Ashton: Ashton is expected to declare shortly, and it's no secret this will be more about raising her profile than about winning. At 29, her support will come predominantly from youth and from her home province of Manitoba. If she does well, she could position herself for a future run in 10 or 20 years.

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  • Thanks for the shout-out for my news and social media aggregator page on the leadership. I want to do one for the BQ as well, but my time is not my own at the moment. Cheers.

    By Blogger The Pundits' Guide, at 8:27 p.m.  

  • You raise a very interesting point while commenting on Dewar's strategy: we'll have to watch how the "NDP Establishment" breaks on the new leader. Will the new leader represent a broad base of New Democrats, or will large swaths of their supporters be left in the wind as their preferred candidate is dropped from the ballot?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:27 p.m.  

  • CG
    All this unilingual AudGen with subsequent resignation sounds similar to the Census debate; i bet would make a great post. It's a bizarre choice considering how obviously inflammatory it is to francophones (not to mention Quebec separatists) and considering how many qualified bilingual candidates there are

    By Anonymous JBV, at 12:34 p.m.  

  • I actually think Mulcair is fading a lot as a candidate and may end up coming in fourth on the first count. The race may end up being between Topp, Dewar and Nash and I think Dewar would eb a shoe-in were it not for that fact that his French is dreadful - and having a leader who is anything less than fluent in French is a non-started.

    By Blogger DL, at 8:54 p.m.  

  • Honestly I dont understand why non-bilingual "candidates" even bother; one may as well be a pedophile living 10 months of the year in Jamaica or Germany -- you're clearly not qualfied to lead the federation, period.

    By Anonymous Jbv, at 9:32 a.m.  

  • "Honestly I dont understand why non-bilingual "candidates" even bother; one may as well be a pedophile living 10 months of the year in Jamaica or Germany -- you're clearly not qualfied to lead the federation, period."

    Wow... Just wow.

    By Anonymous MPAVictoria, at 1:46 p.m.  

  • Off topic but as far as I know the Liberals have no website where they can go and discuss issues and ideas. The Conservatives have BlueCanada and BloggingTories while the NDP have Rabble, but I don't know of any sites where Liberals can go to discuss issues and ideas. I think it could be great for the rebuilding of the party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:03 p.m.  

  • "Honestly I dont understand why non-bilingual "candidates" even bother"

    Would that apply to candidates for MP - for example, unilingual Anglophone candidates running in Quebec? I can think of at least one such candidate who won.

    Jack Layton signed her nomination papers, so one can only presume he was okay with unilingual Anglophones running in Quebec.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 p.m.  

  • Would that apply to candidates for MP

    Did I miss the part where this thread was about MP's and *not* about running for The Big Chair in the PMO?

    Try to keep up, Brainiac - we're talking about "leadership candidates" with shaky French, and I'm sorry to break the news, but you're disqualified if you're not bilingual. I think Paul Wells said it best re: Belinda Stronach's run - how serious are we to take Federal Party Leadership Candidates who want to run Canada but only just now are discovering the necessary qualifications?

    (He said it better...)

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 5:03 p.m.  

  • >>Wow... Just wow.

    Apparently the necessary qualifications are also a surprise to MPAVictoria, who has not followed leadership politics for some decades now

    Bilingual Federation means Bilingual Prime Minister. I realize many otherwise-qualified and well-meaning potential party leaders don't make the cut, but being PM is half-ego: if you seek the power, get out your LeRobert and your Oxford dictionaries.

    Personally I think PM's should be able to say a few basic phrases in Cree and Inuktitut for ceremonial purposes, too -- the kind of thing you can learn phonetically in an hour ir three

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 5:13 p.m.  

  • ... or three ;-)

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 5:15 p.m.  

  • PS Michael Ferguson should have declined long ago in my obnoxious opinion

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 5:16 p.m.  

  • @JBV, thank you for arrogantly deciding on behalf of all members of the NDP, and indeed everyone in Canada what does and doesn't qualify someone for each office.

    The NDP set the rules when they ran unilingual anglo candidates as MPs in Quebec. That you don't like the rules they set is clear, but you're a little late to criticise them for it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:20 p.m.  

  • I know of no one who is an NDP MP in Quebec who is a "unilingual anglophone". If you have someone in mind and that person truly is absolutely 100% unilingual (ie: speaks and understands ZERO French) - please state their name.

    By Blogger DL, at 6:48 p.m.  

  • I'm not a fan of bilingualism as a requirement for most jobs (with some exceptions, it should be a plus, not a requirement), but it makes sense for the PM, at least in the post-television age.

    That said, I'm not sure how long it will be a requirement. Compare the old babelfish to google translate - accurate instant translation is in the near future. And then when you think about computers like Watson, or photo translation apps, it is hard not to believe that language will soon become obsolete.

    As for this race, the NDP would be idiotic to nominate anybody but Mulcair or maybe Saganash. Would they be able to win English Canada? I dunno, but even with shaky Turmel as leader, the NDP poll position has been solid. Polls of non-Quebecois NDP leaders show the party dropping precipitously in the province.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 12:29 a.m.  

  • H2H
    I agree totally re: the future

    In 2011 and the foreseeable future, party leaders must be bilingual.

    I personally AM a fan of bilinguism; I have yet to meet any multi-lingual who would prefer to be unilingual, and I kniw many unilinguals who wistfully wish they spoke a second language.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 3:56 p.m.  

  • Kiss off Anon

    "MP'" isn't "Party Leader"

    Mange la merde et ferme-la

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:08 p.m.  

  • PS
    Akso agree re: television age

    Bilingualism was not a requirement in the newspaper age

    And, while I dont specifically have a problem with a unilingual candidate, the facts are facts: English Canadians demand English and French Canadians demand French. The population therefore demands bilingualism, as much ad Anon and MPAVic wish to fool themselves

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 10:46 a.m.  

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