The NDP Leadership Race is About to Begin Amidst Talks of a ‘Merger’ with the Liberals

The harsh reality: politics does not rest with Jack Layton’s death

By Luis Fernando Arce, Senior Co-online Editor


Jack Layton’s death shook the nation from coast to coast. It was made very clear in the following days that almost every Canadian had something positive to say about the man, even if their politics differed. The country was overwhelmed with sorrow, and the news networks made it a point to only focus on the life the man had led – homage and tributes. But the harsh reality is that politics does not rest.

The sadness that palpitated through the country is gradually receding, and the issues making headlines now focus on the power-vacuum existing in the party. “Who will replace Jack Layton?” has become the political junkie’s new mantra.

Well, that remains unknown. But fret not, junkie, because a savage unofficial race is already underway. It began pretty much at the beginning of last week when some party members started voicing their interest in either running or in appointing someone – some of them even claim that they’ve received encouragement from civilians outside the party.

But the official race-time remains to be announced. For now, we know that on September 9th the NDP will officially set the rules for how it will take place. Their first caucus meeting of the fall will then happen between the 13th and 15th, and on the 19th the MPs will return to the House of Commons…

For now, you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.


Those who need harder stuff due to years of abuse will be happy to know two things: First, that rampant speculation about who will run and who is most suitable is already setting the pace for a ferocious marathon to ensue in the near future; and second, that merger-talk between the revitalized NDP and the enfeebled Liberals has also surfaced.

Thus far, the most popular names dominating the scene are: Brian Topp, the NDP’s president; Thomas Mulcair, MP for Outremont, Quebec; Peter Julian, Burnaby – New Westminster, B.C. MP; as well as Robert Chisholm and Megan Leslie, MPs for ridings in Nova Scotia and Halifax respectively. Joe Comartin and Paul Dewar have also expressed their interest. Olivia Chow’s name has been heard amongst the murmurs, but mostly at the grassroots level.

Brian Topp has officially announced that if he does run he will step down as party president; he will also step back from the role he holds in the leader-selection process, turning that responsibility over to Rebecca Blaikie.

Thomas Mulcair has also announced that if the convention is not delayed past the 9th he will not be running because he would not be at a “level playing field” given that the Quebec wing has few members and he would need time to sign up more.

Reporters from various newspapers have said that this would be a blow to the NDP in Quebec, because Mulcair has been the public face of the party there since 2007 when he won a seat from the Liberals in Montreal. Then he egged the province on to victory in May of this year by taking 59 seats there.

Pat Martin, Winnipeg Centre MP and one of the party’s most outspoken personalities, has also announced that he would be willing to run, but his ticket is based on the possibility of merging or of a coalition with the Liberals. This has been expressed on his website, which declares that he will support any candidate pushing for a coalition or merger, and that he will run himself if no other candidate jumps aboard.

However, as all astute politicians, he’s been employing a cunning mastery of the language to ensure he does not come off one-sided. He’s assured us, for instance, that he is not proposing a merger or attempting to dictate what it should look like. Instead, he fancies himself a realist by recognizing that some people, including political scientists, fear the death of centre-left politics if no relationship is established.

“We finished second [with] 121 seats,” he’s been quoted saying in an article in the Montreal Gazette. “United it would be a majority and it would have some lasting permanence.”

He furthermore posits that the two parties should cramp themselves into a room like bickering spouses and deliberate on how to save social programs now that the conservatives have a stranglehold in Parliament – if the argument is going to be whether the NDP will suck up the Liberals, it simply should not happen, he says.

Some may call this astuteness; some may call it double-talk.

But despite Martin being described as someone always quotable, he has not been the most prominent figure in the push for a merger.

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