First note that the vote for the leader of the NDP is still 3 weeks away, and through the magic of the internet, there is no need to actually vote until convention day (when you can vote in real time with the convention), these rankings aren’t finalized.
Each candidate has their strengths and weaknesses, many of which were obvious at the start of the campaign, some have been exposed through the race, and a couple have tried to counter their weaknesses . To determine my ranking I compared each candidate to each of the other candidates, determining subjectively which I would rather see lead the party.
My key issues for leader are:
- They must be able to grow the party in Western Canada. We need to win seats in Saskatchewan and Alberta and build on our strength in BC and Manitoba. We also have to break into Ontario. These are where the new seats are coming, and its where any future government will need its base. This means understanding rural and western issues and reaching those voters where they are.
- Obviously we also need to hold Quebec. Polls are starting to show that wave of support simmer down. While we’re still competitive, we can’t slip much further. I want a leader who can hold 30-60 seats without costing ones in Western Canada. Nothing alienates Albertans more than extra deference to Eastern issues.
- Our leader must be able to articulate a positive, progressive vision for Canada. We won’t beat Harper by going negative and we don’t need to be Liberals – there already is a party for the mushy middle. This includes reaching out to non-voters and those disaffected by the poisonous partisan rhetoric.
- A strong commitment to keeping Canada secular.
Before I get to my rankings, here’s what I see as the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate:
Strengths: Well developed progressive policy, establishment support, strategic experience, provincial government experience
Weakness: Lacks a seat
Strengths: Pharmacy, small business, and reaching new Canadians.
Weaknesses: Inexperience, his association with the Faith and Social Justice committee, and his willingness to use religious organizations for partisan purposes.
Strengths: Progressive and union bona fides, urban Ontario issues, social media reach
Weaknesses: A number of debate gaffs, not sure she understands Western or rural Canada, I didn’t find her very personable, most likely to take NDP back to the 90s
Strengths: Name recognition, Quebec organization, caucus support, environment, a shrewd politician, provincial cabinet experience
Weaknesses: Vague policy that mostly mirrors the 2011 platform, not clear how he will build Western strength by “repeating the success in Quebec” (the politics are quite different), most centrist, no commitment to electoral reform.
Strengths: Experience, intelligence, ability to connect with the grassroots, policy, support across Western Canada
Weaknesses: Weak French raises flags in Quebec,
Strengths: Positive message, progressive values, definitely gets rural/Western Canada, best sense of humour, willing to question the monarchy
Weaknesses: the Cullen plan, lack of support in Quebec
Strengths: Positive and progressive message, cares and understands Western issues, appeals to young non-voters, intelligent
Weaknesses: campaign fundraising numbers point to organizational weakness,
Now, with no further ado my tentative Rankings
- Niki Ashton
- Brian Topp
- Paul Dewar
- Nathan Cullen
- Thomas Mulcair
- Peggy Nash
- Martin Singh
Were I to fill in a ballot today, I would potentially reserve my right to omit Martin Singh and potentially Peggy Nash from the list. Singh singlehandedly knocked himself off my preferences on day one when he discussed his desire to use the leadership race as a platform for his Sikhism. While totally within his right, such a flagrant disregard for the unwritten secularism of Canadian politics causes him to lose my vote. Nash drops to the bottom from what might have been a much higher ranking because of her consistently poor showing through the entire race. Examples of her missteps are numerous including some serious concerns about her adamant support of the hated gun registry. She lacks passion and her Toronto-centric feel would drive alienated Western voters back to the Conservatives.
Niki Ashton on the other hand has a deep understanding of Western Canada as Canada’s only opposition MP from the rural prairies. She is smart, quick, and has demonstrated through this campaign that age should be no barrier to becoming leader of the Official Opposition. My few concerns about her are easily negated by the growing strength of the NDP and her demonstrated experience in her own constituency. While she is still a long shot in this contest, a strong showing will serve her well for the next leadership race when people may be more willing to grant her the respect she has already earned.
The rest of my rankings are fairly close and are subject to some shuffling up to and on the day of the convention. I see Mulcair as having slightly better than even odds of winning the race, but I remain concerned about his lacklustre policy announcements and his unclear plan to apply the success he (at least claims to have) crafted in Quebec to the rest of Canada. I also wonder about his previous stances on Israel and his curious doubts over photos of bin Laden’s death. While likely the best placed to hit the ground running toward an election, it bears remembering that with a majority government and the Liberals in interim leadership for another year, there is time for any of the candidates to craft their public image enough to be a strong contender against Harper in 2015.
So until the convention I will continue to watch for the subtle differences, announcements, and signs that could shift any of these candidates. I think any of my top 5 choices would be a strong contender and I would continue to support the party under the leadership of any of them. I’ll let you know if this ranking changes significantly (and will likely be on Twitter on convention day).