Last week I posted on my thoughts on media coverage for the race to become the new NDP leader. At the end I mentioned how I would give my thinking on how I might vote at the upcoming convention. There are eight candidates vying to replace the late Jack Layton, and here are my rankings. They are subject to change.
1. Nathan Cullen (NDP – Skeena-Bulkley Valley, BC) – Mr. Cullen is arguably the most controversial candidate to lead the NDP, but that is not why I would vote for him. He is frequently attacked by his opponents for his proposed plan to cooperate with the Liberal and Green Parties (and perhaps others). He also promises to introduce a Mixed-Member Proportional system once the NDP forms government, making the need for this cooperation unnecessary. The cooperation will be determined on a local riding level, which likely means it’ll never happen. It’s Cullen’s approach and style that I find most appealing. His presence in the debates is humorous, snappy and effective with an endless ability to generate memorable lines/sound bites. He is also the longest-sitting MP running. His recent policy announcement on Arctic issues is quite good, in my opinion.
2. Romeo Saganash (NDP – Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, QC) – Mr. Saganash has by far the most impressive biography of any candidate. I do not mean this as a simple appreciation of a man who has overcome hardship. Saganash’s career as a Cree leader in Quebec has been remarkable. He was my first choice for many weeks, but sadly his weak performance in debates has left me wanting more.
3. Brian Topp – NDP Party President – The so-called establishment choice, Mr. Topp, feels like the safe choice. He is relatively polished, and performs well in debates. He is also from Quebec, which might be useful in holding the province. Topp’s lack of experience in electoral politics as a candidate bothers me. I put a high value on experience.
4. Thomas Mulcair (NDP – Outremont, QC) – Mr. Mulcair is by far the most experienced candidate to become Prime Minister. He has served in Charest’s cabinet in Quebec. I am not terribly bothered by reports of Mulcair’s prickly personality – sometimes leaders are tough. What I am concerned about is that Mulcair has said some worrying things in the past. The most prominent example is after the United States announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed that he did not believe it in an interview with Evan Solomon of CBC. Conservative and Liberal attack ads will probably pick him apart.
5. (TIED) Peggy Nash (NDP – Parkdale-High Park, ON) – Ms. Nash is a measured, reasonable politician. She acted well as a finance critic going toe-to-toe against Jim Flaherty (CPC – Whitby-Oshawa, ON). As an Ontario political leader I have seen her on TV a lot and she does well on panels. However, I have two major issues with Ms. Nash as NDP leader. First, Nash is to the left of me politically and she is very close to the union movement. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I do not think the labour movement will bring the NDP into government. Second, Nash seems to cast herself as angry, angry at the injustice of the Canadian economy and the failure of Conservative policy. I know it is gendered to say, but she does not come across as angry, but shrill. Part of picking a leader is picking someone who will appeal to other Canadians, not just the base. For Ms. Nash, one of my political heroes endorsed her.
5. (TIED) Paul Dewar (NDP – Ottawa Centre, ON) – Mr. Dewar is an effective parliamentarian. He has been endorsed by MPs I respect, in particular Charlie Angus (NDP – Timmins-James Bay). What I like most about Dewar is that he is unveiling a plan to capture the next 70 seats and bring the NDP to majority government. My criticism is that Mr. Dewar is up and down in debate performances. Sometimes he is stiff and robotic, and other times he can match other top-tier candidates. Another issue is that his French is weak, and in a party that needs to preserve wins in Quebec, that’s an issue.
7. Niki Ashton (NDP – Churchill, MB) – Ms. Ashton’s concept of New Politics is attractive, there is no doubt. Ashton may also be the weakest debater in the field. She sticks to buzzwords and platitudes too often and her delivery falls flat. I am hopeful in time she will refine her skills and as a lead critic or minister in a future government she may position herself as a future leader.
8. Martin Singh – Pharmacist – Most acknowledge that Mr. Singh has been impressive in the campaign. This political outsider has managed to influence debates and sign up plenty of new members to the party. That being said, this is a race to find the Leader of the Opposition, not a local riding association. I hope one day Mr. Singh joins his fellow candidates in the House of Commons, but he is not ready to be Prime Minister by my account.