Leader of the House the Jack Built
Finally, the day has arrived. After a long time the race for the leadership of the New Democratic Party will be decided. The new leader will be the leader of the Official Opposition to the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
After Jack Layton's
remarkable achievement of leading the NDP to the historic high in members of parliament to become the Official Opposition, cancer took him from us. He was a beloved person and admired as a politician by many Canadians well beyond the NDP.
The party's great success in Québec was an unexpected event to almost everyone maybe even Jack. The people of Québec had decided to try seriously to support a federalist party after the years of parking their vote with the Bloc Québécois, the spokesmen for separatism.
In spite of a long drawn out leadership campaign the strength of the NDP has held. We recently learned that most Canadians would be willing to see the NDP for the government someday. The traditional view had been that it was a useful "conscience of government" and a force to bring about social improvements, but not necessarily forming the government. Also, we now read that the NDP has equal support nationally with the Conservative
government at 30 percent. The strength of the NDP has held in spite of the skillful and dynamic leadership of Bob Rae, the leader of the Liberal Party. (a former Provincial NDP government leader). The NDP has survived this period of transition united and strong. The new leader has much to work with and live up to.
I am a lifelong supporter of the New Democratic Party. I have always thought it has very skilled and admirable candidates and members of parliament. It also has consistently been the party to speak up for the underdog, minorities and those individuals and groups in need of government services. It is the party that gave us Tommy Douglas
(Canada's Greatest Canadian) and inspired out national health plan, which is the one social program that Canadians like the most.
I have always been on the fringe of the party. Unlike most New Democrats who seem to want to soft pedal our socialist roots I do not shy away from calling myself a socialist. I still remember the struggle of the Waffles
within our party to make the NDP be the instrument of creating a truly Socialist Canada. I guess I am still stuck in the past. After the party purged itself of it young socialists, I was saddened. This move of the party more to the centre dismayed me but I continued my support for their was no other option.
If the NDP takes another shift to the right to capture the central position of the country, which the Liberals traditionally held, I may have to look around and find another place to cast my vote., the Green Party tempts me as I think the most important issue of the day is the environment and for the other parties, particularly the Conservative Party the total focus has been on the economy. It seems to me a choice between an irreparably damaged planet or economic prosperity is no contest. We need to save the planet ( the effort need not be an economic disaster.)
A couple of the candidates running for the leadership of the NDP want to be too cosy with the liberals. Thomas Mulcair, who seems to be the candidate in the front of the pack is a former provincial Liberal politician and is one of those who want to move the party toward a more centrist position. I guess I am one of those who thinks if the electorate wants a liberal party they will turn to the real Liberal Party and not the NDP. I believe we need to hold the left of centre position and build on it. The Conservative Party is on record to want to drag the political centre of Canada (which they admit they do not represent) to the right so that conservatism becomes the new normal. We should not oblige them so easily. Another candidate is Nathan Cullen. He wants to cooperate with the Liberals to strategically run the next election to defeat the Conservatives by not competing with each other in certain ridings. I think close cooperation with the liberals has historically brought us short term gain and long term pain. When we have supported Liberal governments or formed a coalition to form the government we have achieved program goals but come out of the arrangement weakened as a party. I, therefore, am not a strong supporter of either of these candidates.
The other strong contender is Brian Topp. It appeared he was the anointed one as many long time leaders of the Party such as former leader Ed Broadbent endorsed him early even before we know who all the candidates would be. It seems like an effort to get their inside man out in front. This has made me suspicious of him although he is a strong social democrat and worked closely with Jack Layton as he was the President of the Party. He does not have a seat in parliament which will limit his effectiveness until he gets a seat.
There are other interesting candidates. Paul Dewar is a strong candidate but his effectiveness with our large group of French speaking members of parliament and a French speaking public in Québec, is in question as his French is marginal, the weakest of all the candidates. I am fascinated with Nikki Ashton. She is young and claims the youth vote. She also comes from a Northern Manitoba rural riding which includes Thompson. (If polar bears could vote she would be a shoe in as this is the polar bear capital of Canada). She comes from a strong NDP family; her father is in the Manitoba government. Martin Singh is a fascinating person. He is a convert to Sikhism and from a small town Nova Scotia of all places. He is definitely and outsider without a seat in parliament and few endorsements. He probably will be the first candidate eliminated. He is personally a rather fascinating man who does not lack in confidence in his own abilities.
The candidate that I most like is Peggy Nash. She is a long standing member of the NDP and has served the party both inside and outside the parliament. She defeated a popular Liberal candidate to gain her seat this time. Her roots are deep in the social democratic base of the Party. She has been a powerful figure in the labour movement and is a skilled negotiator for labour contacts. She is very personable. I think she will be a formidable leader of the Opposition in the Parliament.
If you want to see picture of these candidates and read a little about them go here
These candidates are a remarkable worthy and a well qualified lot. They are typical of so many outstanding men and women who serve our party in and out of parliament. They are all bilingual and some are multilingual. They are well educated with former careers outside of politics.They have served as volunteers and worked for NGOs in Canada and abroad at one time or another. They are outstanding Canadians and I think represent the best cultural values of being a Canadian, which is more than I would say about some members of the present Conservative government. (this is a posting for another time after I finish reading "A Fair Country" by John Ralston Saul where he argues that we are a métis country built on the three pillars of English French and Aboriginal cultures. Many of our cultural value are aboriginal in origin, which helps distinguish us from American and European cultures)
Well I am awaiting the outcome of the election today. For a political animal like me the days forward will be very interesting indeed.