NDP leadership race comes into focus

The wet cool spring had many believing things would never heat up and with the House of Commons on summer recess, politics seemed to be catching up with the weather, but not for a handful of NDP politicians and their leadership campaigns.  That's because the long process that will culminate with a new NDP leader in the autumn passed an important checkpoint this week when the nomination process for candidates officially closed.  We now know there are four individuals vying for to lead the party and all but one are seeking the position for the first time. 

The four who have thrown their hats into the ring to succeed Thomas Mulcair are Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron, and Jagmeet Singh.  Three of these are my parliamentary colleagues and Mr. Singh is known to many for his work as a high-profile MPP at Queen's Park and his role as the deputy leader of the Ontario NDP.  In the north, Charlie will be the most recognizable as the MP for Timmins -James Bay, but I have worked with Niki and Guy for years and can tell you they are all remarkable, hard-working, and talented individuals.

Having watched the Conservatives go through their contest to replace Stephen Harper, Canadians saw how a large group of candidates (thirteen in all) struggled to define themselves, perhaps at the party's expense. Some of the more fringe positions and policies that were presented to the party faithful had little chance of ever being presented as party policy, but they were used to create separation from the pack.  This highlighted how a big slate can get out of control if there isn't enough spotlight to go around. That was especially noticeable in their debates and in the way the media covered the campaign - focusing on spectacle over substance.

New Democrats hope that their smaller group of moderate candidates won't be plagued by the negative attention that comes from divisive politics and so far that seem to be the case.  In the early debates candidates joked that they were in violent agreement on issue after issue.  That's hardly surprising given the even tone and strong team play that every one of these candidates is known for.  That doesn't mean that they agree on everything, but there is a real sense that they aren't about to say any old thing just to be different from each other.

While these candidates have all been busy for months, their work will now take on a more urgent tone since they only have a short period of time to convince enough party members that they have what it takes to lead.  That means travel, meet and greets, debates, and even more travel on the barbecue circuit.   All of this is supported by campaign teams, volunteers, and donors without whom the whole process would be unfathomable.

 To make matters a little confusing the Manitoba NDP is going through a leadership race as well and Nikki Ashton's father is among those vying to replace Greg Sellinger.  New Democrats in that province were unable to a secure fifth consecutive majority government, but they are wasting no time preparing to contend for government in the next election.  That's what the five candidates running for federal leader are hoping to do as well.

 Online voting for the new Federal New Democrat leader opens on September 18 2017, the same day MPs will be returning to Parliament, with the final round of ballots ending October 29 2017, if necessary. Between the new Conservative leader and the NDP leadership race, the House of Commons floor will be an exciting place this fall.