Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Blowing in the Canadian political wind is an NDP-Liberal merger. Who in both parties has the will to really explore this idea?

Brian Topp: the current NDP president may run for the Leadership

The party president who wants to run for the NDP leadership. 

by Tom Thorne
In the next few weeks after a reasonable mourning time for Jack Layton, the New Democratic Party (NDP) in addition to mounting the Opposition in parliament, will have to start the process to find their next permanent leader. 
Who will it be? How much energy will be diverted from the upcoming  parliamentary session internal issues of their party's leadership? It will be a fine balance and test of their skills and discipline and how they function with all the change they face in the new parliament combined with the change they face inside the NDP picking a new leader.
Who is Brian Topp?
The current party president Brian Topp is not at all shy about his ambitions. On the day of Jack Layton's state funeral he said he would have to resign as NDP party president, a job he has had only since 18 June 2011, if and when he decides to run for the leadership.
Topp, in his early 50s has no seat in parliament but that is no impediment because neither did Jack Layton when he became NDP leader. He was  born in Montreal and is fluently bilingual and he is a McGill University graduate.
Topp is quoted as saying that the NDP "is laying the groundwork for becoming the government in 2015."  Of course Jack Layton's death may have truncated those plans somewhat, and if Brian Topp enters the leadership ring then a new party president will have to be found. It's sort of like playing musical chairs at NDP headquarters. 
Topp has a long background as an NDP back room operative. In the 1990's he served Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanov as a senior staffer. This time in Saskatchewan gave Topp real  experience of an NDP government in power. Even earlier he had spent time in Ottawa as a MP assistant. 
Topp has the back room NDP credentials to know how to run elections like the one we just experienced and he knows how the NDP party works. His Quebec origins will  in this transition period, help to keep the 59 NDP members of parliament from that province on side and on task. 
He may be ready to take on the job of NDP leader. he is not too old, seasoned by years of political activity with the NDP both at the provincial and federal levels. In addition, Brian Topp has union credentials always useful for NDP leaders. He served as Executive Director and CEO of ACTRA the broadcast performers union.
A good profile, the right age and the right experience. Topp looks like a headliner. Whether he could take the party forward from the charisma of Jack Layton is anyone's guess. 
Leadership races for both Liberals and NDP need to deal with the potential of the two parties merging. But will that happen?
In this morning's Globe and Mail running off the front page was a story about potential NDP-Liberal mergers. Denis Coderre a Liberal MP and possible Liberal leadership hopeful stated: "We have to hold a serious debate on the future of progressive forces in Canada." That's code for a merger of the NDP and the Liberals.
How do Brian Topp and other potential NDP leadership candidates feel about this kind of comment from a Liberal Party leadership hopeful? Coderre sees clearly that there is a need for a new Liberal Democratic party or at least a coalition to counter the Harper Conservatives.
In the same Globe piece former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff talked of "shared values" of the NDP and the Liberals. Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae after the last election talked about a merger but these days is silenced by his current job and his mandate which is  "to rebuild the Liberal party".
Justin Trudeau, also a Liberal MP from Montreal, left the door open to a merger by saying for now he is against it "but he could change his mind." Even grand old men of both parties, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent and former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien have ruminated about a merger.
Former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin at the Jack Layton funeral waxed on about the common aspects of the NDP and Liberals when interviewed after by CBC TV News. He was taken by Stephen Lewis' "manifesto" speech but also how the country came together celebrated Jack Layton's political contributions to Canada and how there was a need to make things work in this country.
The merger of the NDP and Liberals remains in the Canadian political wind and it is undeniable and must be dealt with by both the Liberal and NDP leadership hopefuls. Hopefully that happens. Canada need that debate and that political orientation to make a strong counterpoint to the positions of the right wing now the government in Ottawa.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

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