Monday, September 12, 2011

Brian Topp for NDP Leader

Brian Topp announced he was running to be NDP leader today and there were many in the media that dismissed him because he was not an MP.   I think this is fundamentally misguided thinking.

The NDP federally has gone from a small party of protest to the government in waiting.   The nature of NDP for decades has been that the brightest and best are active provincially because this is where the party has a chance to winning elections in at least four of the provinces of Canada and possibly again in Ontario in the future.   This means that the people running for MP have had little or no interest in governance and have really been much more of a political social conscience for the nation.   The consequence is that the NDP may have 103 MPs, but really no more than handful of them have even the smallest experience of governance.

Former NDP premiers and cabinet members have been more likely to throw their lot in with the federal Liberals than their own party.   The decision by Ujjal Dosanjh and Bob Rae to become Liberals really says a lot about how serious the NDP was nationally.  You will also note that at the same time that it has been rare for a federal NDP MP to make a successful run at being leader of the provincial party in provinces where the party could win.  The only one I know of is Ed Schreyer in Manitoba.

Back to Brian Topp and why his candidancy is more relevant and promising than more or less any sitting MP's would be.

Brian Topp has seven years being a senior aide in the Romanow government.   He understands much better than more or less of the current NDP MPs what is involved with being government.   The Romanow years were not years of easy government for the NDP in Saskatchewan, the minority government meant behind the scenes very serious work had to be done to ensure the NDP could govern.  The Romanow government was also a very pragmatic and sound government, this was not a Rae government where the learning curve was too steep for everyone.

It is this skill set he learned in Saskatchewan that is needed by the next NDP leader.   The NDP is the government in waiting and needs to understand that their goal is to win the next election, Brian Topp understands that.   The NDP suffered badly in Ontario under Bob Rae because the party did not believe it would ever be the government.

Most of the NDP MPs have either been long term complacent about the role of the NDP federally and accepted not being anything more than a conscience, or they were elected this time around are are still stunned they are making obscene amounts of money and are not thinking about cabinet roles after the 2015 election.

Honestly I do not believe the federal NDP believes a narrative in which they become government.   If they do not believe it, they are not likely to win and certainly will not try to attract top flight candidates for 2015.  It is with Brian Topp that the NDP has a chance because this is a man who does believe the NDP can win the next election.

Brian Topp has also been an important player in making the Jack Layton NDP succeed to the extent it has.   Running for MP is one thing, dealing with the national campaign is something completely different and requires skills that transfer well into being government.

The downside of Brian Topp is that he has no experience have to be in the public light and responsible for decisions that have been made.   In Saskatchewan it was Roy Romanow that had answer for mistakes.  In the federal elections that fell on Jack Layton.   If he can handle being in front of the media and being the man with whom the bucks stops, he will likely be a good NDP leader and has a decent shot of becoming prime minister.

If not Brian Topp who else could take on the role?   If he were not the leader in BC, Adrian Dix would be an obvious choice.   Thomas Mulcair may have the skill set needed, but I hear he is not easy to work with.  Beyond that I run dry.

Addition on September 13th:

Brian Topp has picked up some BC based endorsements - Joy Macphail, John Horgan, Dawn Black and Michelle Mungall.   What strikes me about that list is who is not on it from BC.

Most importantly, I would like to see some Saskatchewan endorsements especially Roy Romanow


Anonymous said...

Of course, Bob Rae was a federal MP before becoming leader of the Ontario NDP but maybe that makes your point about MPs not being able to make the transition

Bernard said...

You are right about Bob Rae and I had meant to mention him, he took on the leadership of the Ontario NDP when no one thought the party was anything more relevant than the party federally.

The Ontario NDP under Rae did OK in 1985 but not back to where they were in 1975 and 1977. In 1987 the NDP went backwards in seats. The 1990 win was truly a surprise.

So my point is that I do not think that Rae left federal politics to become leader of the Ontario NDP with any expectation of winning.

David Bratzer said...

Great post but it may be too early to read anything into the BC endorsements. He's the only declared candidate and the leadership campaign will last months.