Friday, March 23, 2012

A Liberal perspective on #ndpldr in Toronto

I hear a wildcat strike by unionized Air Canada workers at Pearson Airport has been delaying some NDP delegates from making it to the leadership convention, but luckily the TTC is still running and I've arrived at the Metro Toronto Convention  Centre, gotten my media/blogger badge, and settled into the blogger command centre on the convention floor to begin my Liberally-tainted coverage of the battle to succeed Jack Layton.

While walking through the Skywalk on my way to the MTCC, an older gentleman came up to me and told me I had a walk like some guy who used to lead the Ontario Federation of Labour. I'm not sure if it was intended as a complementary comment or not, but I'll take it as a sign I'm fitting in amongst the Dippers. I'll note for the record that, as a teenager working at The Real Canadian Superstore in Courtenay, BC, I was a member of Local 777 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). So, solidarity forever and what not.

I'll be here all weekend and I'l be tweeting more than blogging, so keep an eye on my Twitter feed (@JeffJedras) for updates, pictures and sarcastic comments. Blogging will be for more indepth commentary at less regular intervals.

Going into the weekend, everyone seems to think Thomas Mulcair has this thing wrapped up. That may well be true, but I don't think that's really based on any scientific evidence. There's no real polling or anything to back it up. And I'm reminded of the Liberal leadership convention in Montreal. Everyone thought it was Michael Ignatieff's, or maybe Bob Rae in case of upset. Instead a scrapper named Stephane Dion came out of the pack, and the rest, well, that weekend was great anyway. Point is, anything can happen, and while it's easier for anything to happen at a delegated convention (now a thing of the past), there's still no way of knowing how a preferential ballot will shake out until it does, and the pundits are often wrong.

Anyway, I'll be looking to see which of the candidates looks ready to lead on the national stage as a potential Prime Minister, and how the supporters of other candidates react when the others are on stage. Also, as the NDP will need the support of Liberals like, well, like me if they're to grow, I'll be looking to see if I could possibly see myself supporting any of these people, and if any of them have any crossover appeal/send any signals of reaching outside the tent.

And I'll be hoping for multiple ballots and some drama. Random thoughts on the race so far:

Mulcair has performed well and I'm very surprised he has kept angry Tom in check. But if there's an anybody but movement, it's against Tom. I find the distortion of his pro-Israel comments particularly interesting and, frankly, it makes me like him more. But I then go the other way when I read the "vote Tom or you hate Quebec" line pushed by some pundits.

Brian Topp has been all flash little substance, under-performing and underwhelming. At the outset he was touted as a frontrunner, and while he seems to have the establishment support they each only get one vote, and are less influential in an OMOV system than in a delegated vote. He may be a capable backroom organizer, but being the front-person is a very different job and he won't be the first to fail to make the transition.

If I was ever in the NDP, I would be at one end of the party and Peggy Nash the other. She has definitely struck me as the left-wing candidate, and I disagree with her on nearly everything. That said, she's smart and talented and could well emerge as an anybody but Tom standard bearer, particularly for those who fear Mulcair shifting the party to the centre. Picking Nash would very much limit their the NDP's growth potential. Which, naturally, makes her the favourite pick of Liberals.

Paul Dewar showed a lot of promise out of the gate but, besides his questionable French, he hasn't really caught fire. While he's a possible safe choice for a consensus anybody but Tom candidate, he seems to have little momentum at this stage.

Confession: while I'm not sure about the mechanics of his joint LPC/NDP nomination scheme, I like Nathan Cullen. I spent the 2004 campaign working for Liberal candidate in Miles Richardson in Prince Rupert, when Cullen was elected for the first time. He's a warm and engaging guy that actually shares a lot of my values. He has performed ably as an MP, and the Liberals and even Conservatives I speak with that work on Parliament Hill all speak highly of him as someone that works well across party lines. While his cooperation scheme is contentious in NDP ranks, he has run a solid campaign and has potential as a darkhorse anybody alternative.

And then there's Niki Ashton and Martin Singh.

An interesting two days ahead, so stay tuned and have fun.

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