For the past several months, I have been closely following a certain political race whose outcome could have a wide-ranging and long-lasting impact upon the course of my life. I’m not talking about the “G”OP presidential nomination (the sole redeeming feature of all of the clowns in that race is that none of them will ever be elected); no, rather, I am talking about the leadership of the New Democratic Party here in Canada.
For those of you who don’t follow Canadian politics (and who have not yet read this entry on my blog), the NDP is a centre-left political party which recently skyrocketed to official opposition status in the last election after fifty years of trying.* Shortly afterwards, tragically, their charismatic leader Jack Layton suffered a second bout of cancer, and died this past August, recieving a state funeral. Ever since then, the party has been consumed by an admittedly rather tepid leadership race (the problem is that the candidates tend to be very amicable, so sparks seldom fly, and there are eight of them, so ‘debates’ are fairly difficult to stage effectively). While this race has perhaps not been the most entertaining thing on television, that fact of the matter is that it is very important for Canada, as the person who wins it could very easily go on to become the Prime Minister in 2015.
For me, one candidate has consistently managed to stand out from the crowd, and that candidate is Brian Topp. Mr. Topp is a former credit union director, union leader, and political strategist (he was at the right hand of Roy Romanow during his four consecutive highly-successful NDP majority governments in the province of Saskatchewan, and he is generally accredited, along with his fellow candidate Thomas Mulcair, with masterminding the recent NDP breakthrough in Quebec). He was born and raised in Quebec and speaks fluent French (which I feel is very important if the NDP is to hold-on to its gains in that province), but lives in Ontario and, as I suggested above, is closely tied to the Prairie wing of the party (I feel that it is important, if the NDP is ever to win, for it to be able to directly challenge the Conservatives in Western Canada–and, incidentally, so does Brian Topp). Moreover, he has specific policy proposals–something which is important if the party is to be a “government-in-waiting” rather than just an opposition. I agree with many of these policy proposals, and all of them (with the possible exception of eliminating the Senate**) seem eminently feasible. Here are a few of what I consider to be the highlights:
- Make it illegal for the Prime Minister to prorogue the House of Commons in the face of a confidence vote
- “Permanently break the power of the Senate” through convention or abolition
- Institute a national pharmacare plan
- Raise personal income taxes on the top earners and corporations, and close tax loopholes more gnerally (Mr. Topp has made clear, and I agree, that we should not let the Conservatives define the terms of the taxation debate)
- Make the House of Commons into a half-and-half system where half the seats are allocated to representatives of specific geographical ridings and half are parcelled out based on “proportional representation.”
- Increased funding to the CBC, and creation of a “Cultural Industries Fund”
- More federal support for small and medium-sized businesses
- A cap-and-trade system for reducing Greenhouse gas emissions
All of Topp’s policy proposals may be found here.
All of that, to me at least, sounds pretty good. However, the NDP (or at least its Federal branch***) faces a unique challenge in this leadership race, in that they have never really been in such a position to form the government before; so whereas in the past it was feasible to elect leaders based entirely upon how well they hued to New Democratic principles (which by the way, I am by no means dismissing either), this time the candidate must also be electable.
Last night, I got to see Mr. Topp speak in person, and I have satisfied myself that he is suitably charismatic and engaging. Having come to that conclusion, I now feel ready to endorse Brian Topp for leader of the NDP, and eventually (hopefully) Prime Minister of Canada
*For my American readers, this would be roughly equivalent to Ralph Nader beating-out the Democratic Party candidate in a presidential election, except with more long term consequences.
**The Canadian Senate, for the record is not a democratic body. The Canadian Senate is a room full of sleepy old fools appointed by former Prime Ministers as a means of rewarding their friends. It effectively has veto power over legislation passed by the (elected) House of Commons, which can be quite problematic in certain circumstances…