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2012 NDP Leadership Convention: What Really Matters

Wednesday March 21, 2012

The New Democratic Party is now only a few days away from its 2012 Leadership Convention to select a replacement for Jack Layton.  As we come up to the Convention, I wanted to share some last thoughts prior to the Convention commencing.

We Are All New Democrats 

The first and most important thing for all us to remember is that we are all New Democrats, we all share a commitment to the party and regardless of the outcome and where our preferred candidates end this campaign, our true adversary is not to be found within the confines of the party.  Unity, as a party is going to be very important and there have been some unfortunate statements made (Ed Broadbent, I’m talking to you) that both undermine the party’s sense of unity and its willingness to accept a new leader.

Whomever is chosen will have a big job ahead of them.  The country doesn’t have the luxury of allowing Stephen Harper’s government to run unchecked, yet finding effective ways of counteracting the Conservative majority is going to be extremely difficult.  As such, by the time of the 2015 election we must be prepared to take government.

We have a duty to do the best thing for our country.  I believe that every New Democrat will have that foremost on their minds when they make their selection.  We also have a responsibility to Canadians to prevent a viable governing alternative to the Harper Conservatives when the next election comes, especially one that does not embrace the ‘total war’ tactics that have defined this new Conservative party.

My Selection for Canada’s New Democrats

New Democrats are blessed this election to have some genuinely fantastic candidates to lead the party and hopefully to become the next Prime Minister.  All of them would be substantially better than our current Prime Minister.

I am supporting Nathan Cullen for the leadership.  I have previously outlined many of my reasons, including that I feel he speaks for and can access the youth vote effectively, he can re-engage disenchanted voters, his openness to new ideas (such as electoral cooperation) and his willingness to embrace a new political paradigm.

I believe a new political paradigm is essential, not just to defeat Stephen Harper, not just to bring about an NDP government but to bring a long term, permanent and lasting change in our public discourse.  A new political paradigm will allow us to move our country towards a social democracy, while giving all citizens a voice at the table.  This is essential for the achievement of the NDP’s fundamental goals.

I believe Nathan Cullen is the person who can open the door to a new political paradigm and lead New Democrats to government.

A Fantastic Group of Candidates

We also have some other terrific choices for the leadership of our party.  As my second choice, I have listed Peggy Nash.  She is an excellent leader and was a close second to Nathan Cullen in my deliberations.  She has shown a considerable amount of openness to new ideas and she has prioritized the important question of electoral reform.  As an urban MP she offers an opportunity for New Democrats to broaden and deepen our urban and suburban bases.  Urban and suburban voters represent one our best avenues for expansion.

For my third choice I am recommending Thomas Mulcair.  He is an extremely important asset to the New Democrats, as one of the leaders of the Quebec breakthrough, a former provincial cabinet minister and a forceful advocate for modernization and reaching out.  He is a somewhat more conventional politician, in certain ways in the mold of past Prime Ministers and party leaders.  Nonetheless, he is absolutely capable of leading the NDP to victory and ensuring that we maintain our strong Quebec Caucus.

My fourth choice is Paul Dewar and I have found him to be competent and knowledgeable in the areas he has focused on, in particular many of the important changes that need to be made in managing our immigration.  Like Mulcair, I feel he is a more conventional politician, however, he has raised several cogent and important points in the debates.  He is also absolutely capable of leading the NDP to victory.

The remaining three candidates, Martin Singh, Niki Ashton, and Brian Topp I am not ranking as I do not feel I can adequately differentiate the three in their ability to perform as party leader.  Martin Singh has brought some important points to bear about making the NDP more business friendly, an important and worthy conversation to have.  Niki Ashton brings some fantastic energy and passion to the table that will serve the NDP long and well.  Brian Topp has an obvious depth of policy knowledge and experience.  They have all made a valuable contribution to the leadership debate.

Last Thoughts on Cooperation

Thanks to Nathan Cullen, there has been a lot of talk about electoral cooperation and what that means for Canada and for the future of the New Democratic Party.  Everyone obviously has an opinion on this important issue.  I have a few stray thoughts that I haven’t previously articulated.

The first is that cooperation, at its heart, is more about the New Democratic Party than anyone else. Making the offer to cooperate, being the party that reaches out is in many ways more important than the actual cooperating. It makes a profound statement about who we are and how we behave to Canadians. It says something important about the way we will govern. It rejects the total war philosophy that has been embraced by the Conservative Party of Canada.

The next is that too many are focused on the question of electoral cooperation with the Liberals.  The Liberals are not the only potential partner for cooperation and many forget the potential possibilities that may open with cooperation with the Greens.  At the very least, electoral cooperation with the Greens may make more Conservative ridings competitive, forcing them to divert resources to defend them.  The Liberals may well not come to the cooperation table if offered.  That doesn’t mean that cooperation is then no longer off the table or ceases to offer a benefit for the NDP.

My last thought on this issue can be summed up using a classic Canadian construction: cooperation if necessary but not necessarily cooperation.  What is most important is that we have a leader who is open to using all of the tools available to us and able to make a reasonable evaluation when the time comes.  Cooperation may ultimately not be the best tool for the job.  However, acknowledging it as a possibility will have a positive impact on the NDP and on our political discourse.

The Real Goal 

It is very important that the New Democratic Party remember that our ultimate goals are not just power.  We are striving to create a new economic and political paradigm for this country, completing Canada’s transition to social democracy.  While we will best be able to achieve these goals through government, we must not lose sight of them in the pursuit of power.  Whomever is chosen to lead the NDP must always remember that this is the true target and apply the methodical approach pioneered by both Stephen Harper and Jack Layton to take us towards our final goal.

Stephen Harper has done us a huge favour: he has shown to Canadians the path that brand new political party can take power in this country.  He has demonstrated the path that will take the NDP to power and which Jack Layton had embraced.  A methodical, disciplined approach can lead Canada’s New Democrats into political power and to the achievement of our goals.

When the Leadership Convention ends, the real work for the New Democratic Party will begin.  We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but together, we can defeat the Harper Conservatives and take our country into a new era.

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