Monday, January 16, 2012

NDP Leadership Race - boring our way to the end

I am trying really hard to be interested and engaged in this race, but there is simply not much is going on.   It pales in comparison to the US GOP nomination race.  Trust me, I am trying to be interested.

This should be a major political event in Canada.   The leader of the opposition is being chosen, the person that has a good chance of becoming prime minister some day.   No one is digging around for more about these people, to find the skeletons in their closet.   The candidates are avoiding commenting about each other.  

The leadership race is as if the eight candidates are running eight separate campaigns to defeat Stephen Harper.  The Conservatives are not relevant to this race, everyone knows the NDP are not the Conservatives.

What is missing is any debate on who has the skills to build a stronger NDP nationwide.   The big elephant in the room is the gaggle of new MPs from Quebec - what will they do when the new leader is elected?  30 of 55 Quebec MPs that can endorse a candidate are backing Thomas Mulcair.   The party has already lost one Quebec MP.  

Thomas Mulcair needs to come out and point out that only he has the confidence of the majority of the Quebec caucus.  If the NDP can not hold Quebec, not only will they not win government in the future, they will only have a single term as Official Opposition.

Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar need to speak about what skills they have that make them better leaders of the NDP than Brian Topp or Thomas Mulcair.

The problem with the NDP leadership race comes down to one thing - membership.    Only members of the NDP get to vote and each member has one vote.    If you can sign up enough new members, you can win without addressing a single issue.  Sign up 50,000 people in Alberta and you could win the race.    This race is not about who is the best person to lead the NDP, it is about who has the team that sign up the most members.    This makes the race very boring, in fact more boring than the old delegated conventions.

The race is trying to pretend to be a primary like in the US, but is nothing like that.   The race is not even set up in such a way to require a candidate to get support from across the nation.  If the NDP had given each riding the same weight, there would be a huge incentive to sign up new members where the party is weakest on the ground.

What this means is that everything the public sees of the race is a bland campaign window dressing.   The real campaign has nothing to do with this public image.

Canadian political parties need to rethink their approach to leadership races.   The current model of some sort of variation of one member one vote has been a failure.
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