Thursday, 15 September 2011

So far the NDP Leadership race is a one man band. Is Brian Topp the only candidate?

Thomas Mulcair: Still no commitment for the NDP Leadership race.

New Democrats must begin the process of finding a leader.

by Tom Thorne
Somewhere in the ranks of the New Democratic Party (NDP) there is a leader who will emerge. Declared candidate Brian Topp has (as I predicted in a earlier article on 30 August) thrown in his hat backed by Ed Broadbent former federal party leader and NDP eminence gris. 

Now Brian Topp must resign as NDP President which means this job is now up for grabs too. Looking for a new leader and a new party president at the same time could mean structural stress within the NDP as the new parliamentary sessions start this month. Hopefully interim leader Nycole Turmel has the reigns securely in her hands.
Before we go too far let me say that the last person Ed Broadbent endorsed was Jack Layton. In Jack's case he didn't have a seat in parliament and again Brian Topp currently the NDP President is also not a member of the 102 elected NDP members of the parliament caucus.
So in both cases Ed Broadbent has endorsed party leader hopefuls who will have to be elected. Jack Layton managed it after he became leader. It remains to be seen if Brian Topp can, if he is elected leader, find a safe seat to get into parliament. 
Brian Topp will need a seat in parliament.
There will have to be a by-election for Jack Layton's Toronto seat but Topp, I suspect, as a Quebecker, will want to run ,if he wins, from a Quebec riding. That might mean dropping one of the 59 elected Quebec members so there would be an open seat in that province. 
Perhaps Brian Topp should look for a seat outside of Quebec.Whether Topp should run in Jack Layton's old seat is a choice that will have to be made only if and when he wins. 
Waffling currently on the sidelines of this leadership race is Thomas Mulcair. He at time of writing today has not decided to run for the leadership. He as said recently that is is gauging his support within the NDP before making the plunge.
I predict that Thomas Mulcair will run. He was born in Ottawa in 1954 to an Irish Canadian father and a French Canadian mother. He is a graduate of McGill University in law and has taught law in Quebec universities. He has also been a Quebec civil servant working for the Justice Department.
He has been a Liberal cabinet minister in the Jean Charest Quebec provincial government from 2003-2006. That job included topics such as sustainable development, the environment and parks so he can be green if he wants. However his Liberal background could be a liability with NDP purists.
In 2007 Mulcair ran as an NDP federal candidate in Outremont riding in Montreal and won. He was the first NDP candidate to win in Quebec and Jack Layton made him Deputy Leader as a reward. Of course he was re-elected in 2011 in the NDP sweep. His authority in Quebec may preclude Brian Topp running for a seat in that province.
Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair are the two top candidates for the NDP leadership at this time but Mulcair has yet to decide to run and he doesn't have much more time to think about it. The leadership  entry fee is $15,000 to discourage flighty and fanciful candidates from running. Here are some other possibilities for the leadership but may think twice about the entry fee.
Libby Davies....what's her support like? She needs to speak French.
Some people tout west coast MP Libby Davies as a potential leader. Miss Davies is out of the closet as a lesbian, but what that has to do with party leadership abilities is anyone's guess. She also does not speak French so with a huge Quebec caucus that will go over badly. 
Libby Davies is the co-deputy leader of the NDP caucus a job she shares with Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair takes care of the Quebec group of MPs and I suspect Libby Davies takes care of the rest of the country's elected members.
Since Libby Davies is more to the left, both Mulcair and Topp celebrate a more centralist viewpoint. Mulcair in particular is more of a liberal from what I can see, abandoning the Liberal party for a run at a seat in pre-NDP Quebec in 2007. A gutsy move considering that NDP supporters and elected members to the federal parliament were as scarce as hen's teeth back in 2007.
Brian Topp I think is also a centralist NDPer and he brings Saskatchewan government credentials as a back room boy for Premier Roy Romanov. Topp is also a former labour union boss and so brings that credential to the table. Libby Davies is probably the closest NDP MP you will find who could be seen as a socialist.
There is one more possible leadership hopeful and that is Paul Dewar, 48, the sitting NDP MP for Ottawa Centre, Ed Broadbent's last riding when he returned to parliament in 2004. Dewar is a graduate of Queen's University in Kingston and is an elementary school teacher by profession. He has served as the NDP foreign affairs critic and is a champion of legislation to make generic drugs available to the Third World especially to fight HIV/AIDS.
Paul Dewar is more to the left than Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp. Obviously now it is time for serious candidates for the NDP leadership to ante-up the $15,000 fee to run. So far it is only Brian Topp in the ring. I don't think the NDP membership will allow him to get the leadership by acclamation. Let's see what next week brings.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

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