With the March 24 leadership convention for Canada’s New Democratic Party fast approaching, I am now finalizing my endorsements. (Sorry to keep you waiting, New Democrats, I know you’re on the edge of your seats for a Green’s friendly suggestions.) What follows are my (tentative) choices, from first to last, in accordance with the preferential vote that the NDP will be holding:
1. Nathan Cullen
Three things about Cullen. First, he is the easiest to get excited about. He has this strange tendency to speak like a real person rather than a politician, and is more comfortable cracking jokes during debates than any other leadership contender. Don’t underestimate a sense of humour in politics.
Second, in a field of candidates with admittedly impressive environmental proposals, Cullen appears to be prioritizing the planet like no other. In his words (as reported in Now Magazine): “To me, when my team forms up, I say the Green lens comes in front of every policy and you drive it through that lens. We’ll release environmental planks but every plank should be environmental. I think the Prime Minister should be the environment minister.”
And third is the centrepiece of his campaign: his proposal that NDP riding associations be given the choice of cooperating with the Liberal and Green Parties by holding joint nominations in Conservative-held constituencies. Every other candidate in the race is opposed to this strategy, but as I made clear in my last post, I think it’s the best chance of defeating the Conservatives. Plus, it would be nice to see a little cooperation and consensus in our otherwise combative political system.
(On the downside, Cullen has a history of opposing Canada’s long-gun registry. Nobody’s perfect.)
2. Peggy Nash
Nash is a New Democrat’s New Democrat. Unassailably progressive, this former trade unionist has a strong activist background both locally and globally. Under her leadership, the NDP is unlikely to drift to the centre as part of the regrettable pattern set by so many other social democratic parties around the world. Nevertheless, her past experience demonstrates a willingness to negotiate and work constructively with others. What’s more, her environmental credentials are significant enough to have earned her two Sierra Club of Canada awards. Also, it’s 2012. Shouldn’t we have more women in politics by now?
3. Brian Topp
Topp is no Jack Layton. The reputed frontrunner suffers from something of a charisma deficit. But he knows his stuff policy- and strategy-wise. Furthermore, to his great credit, his strongly progressive fiscal proposals show that he is not afraid of raising taxes — especially on those who can most afford to pay.
4. Thomas Mulcair
I am somewhat uneasy about Mulcair’s centrism. The presumed second-placer supports free trade, is weak on Palestinian rights, and has attacked Topp’s tax policies. Also, given that his temper is the stuff of legend, his ability to serve as a consensus builder is questionable. That being said, he is probably the party’s best hope of consolidating its electoral gains in Quebec. For that reason alone, I hope whoever wins decides to keep him on as deputy leader. Furthermore, he shares some of Cullen’s plain-talking charm, and is fairly strong on the environment. With the emphasis he places on carbon pricing, I would not be surprised to see him some day pull a Stephane Dion and embrace carbon taxation. At the moment, however, he, like the other candidates, prefers cap-and-trade, which seems to be good enough for climate scientist Andrew Weaver, who has endorsed him.
5. Niki Ashton
To some, Ashton comes across as confident. To me, she is robotic — exactly the opposite of a Cullen or a Mulcair. She’s probably smart, and she tries to focus on the future and to speak on behalf of the younger generation. I suppose the party could do worse.
6. Martin Singh
Singh’s French is passable, but not great. In the debates, he can be forceful at times. He is a pharmacist and speaks more than the others do about a national pharmacare plan.
7. Paul Dewar
Dewar’s French is worst of all. Aside from that, he does not make an impression.