Tuesday, January 24, 2012

NDP’s next leader of the opposition should be Peggy Nash

Fluently bilingual, tough, experienced, knowledgeable, a powerful speaker , a social democrat who understands the economy and someone who will listen and learn as well as lead, Peggy Nash is my choice.

Peggy Nash and Bill Tieleman - December 2011

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday January 24, 2012

By Bill Tieleman

“Great necessities call forth great leaders.”

- Abigail Adams, former U.S. First Lady, 1744-1818 

Political parties face no tougher challenge than selecting a new leader, especially after the departure of a proven winner.

The test is even more difficult for the New Democratic Party because of the tragic death of Jack Layton shortly after he reached the height of success.

The NDP’s choice on March 24 will become the new leader of the official opposition, the alternative to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the 2015 election.

And that makes party unity a necessity for victory.

While replacing Layton is impossible, the field of candidates to succeed him is very strong.

As Globe and Mail newspaper columnist Jeffrey Simpson flatteringly put it: “Frankly, it’s doubtful the Liberals or Conservatives could field a group of eight such intelligent candidates.”

In observing the NDP hopefuls, and talking directly to most, I’ve also been very impressed. Both those perceived as frontrunners by media and those trying to make a breakthrough have much appeal.

But a leadership campaign is about choices, and I’ve made mine – I will support Peggy Nash for leader.

My reasons for backing the Member of Parliament for Toronto’s Parkdale-High Park riding are both complex and simple.

Extremely Tenacious and Gracious

It’s rare to find someone who is extremely tenacious as well as gracious – two qualities I admire and easily see in Nash.

Nash was the first woman negotiator to lead a union into bargaining with a major auto firm, reaching a deal in 2005 for the Canadian Auto Workers with Ford. 

Nash has refused to accept defeat in running for Parliament, narrowly losing narrowly in 2004, winning in 2006, facing a setback in 2008 and triumphing again in 2011. 

A less tenacious person might have packed it in – she didn’t.

Nash comes unquestionably from a dedicated career in labour but has the wisdom to understand that Canada is built on a private sector economy whose success helps provide the public sector services thatCanadians depend on.

Her knowledge and experience led Layton to appoint Nash finance critic in 2011 – the most important portfolio in a leader’s shadow cabinet.

Nash is also a social justice advocate, passionate about ending inequality and defending human rights everywhere, serving as an international observer for South Africa’s historic 1994 election that chose Nelson Mandela as president and in the Ukraine.

She is outspokenly supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights, has been honoured by the Sierra Club for environmental leadership and by the YWCA for championing women’s rights.

And Nash isn’t about top-down leadership.

“What they get with me is someone who’s connected with the grassroots of the party,” Nash said recently. “If we’re going to grow, if we’re going to build, if we’re going to inspire people to work with us, we’ve got to stay connected with the grassroots.”

“Those aren’t just words to me. It’s my life’s work,” Nash concluded.

When I endorsed Jack Layton for leader in 2003, I saw a former Toronto city councillor with values, experience and a vision. 

I couldn’t foresee that Jack would lead the party to opposition status for the first time by dramatically capturing the most seats in Quebec.  But I could see the same enormous potential for success in Layton that I see today in Nash.

Social Democrat Who Understands The Economy

Fluently bilingual, tough, experienced, knowledgeable, a powerful speaker, a social democrat who understands the economy and someone who will listen and learn as well as lead, Peggy Nash is my choice.

But I deeply respect the other candidates - Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair, former NDP president Brian Topp of Toronto, Ottawa MP Paul Dewar,
B.C. MP Nathan Cullen, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Quebec MP Romeo Saganash  and Nova Scotia businessman Martin Singh

And whether Nash or another candidates wins the NDP leadership, they will have my support in taking on the Harper Conservatives and likely the Liberals led by Bob Rae, as well as my criticism when they make mistakes, as Layton sometimes did.

Nash, like the others, must address some challenges.

Some question whether Nash can hold and grow the NDP’s newfound support in Quebec – but not Pierre Ducasse.

The long-time NDP activist, who wowed many when he contested the party leadership against Layton in 2003 and then became his special advisor on Quebec, has endorsed Nash.

"Peggy Understands Quebec" - Pierre Ducasse

 “Peggy understands Québec and she’s someone who really brings people together,” Ducasse says.

In an interesting YouTube interview last November, Ducasse discussed the possibility of regional battles over the leadership dividing the NDP.

“Many political commentators and analysts try to portray this as one region against another, east versus west or Quebec versus rest of Canada,” Ducasse says.  “I really don’t think that’s the dynamic of this race.”

“I think that the membership will want to support the best person and I think the membership has not fallen into that trap – but must not fall into that trap – of those little regional dynamics.”

“Let’s support the best person for the job,” Ducasse concluded. Exactly right.

Three Quebec MPs - Anne Minh-Thu Quach, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and Dany Morin – agree with Ducasse that Nash comprehends their province, endorsing her campaign

Nash also has the support of former federal NDP leader Alexa McDonough, B.C. MPs Denise Savoie and Randall Garrison, actor-director Sarah Polley and many others.

But in the NDP’s one member-one vote leadership contest, endorsements, while important, are secondary to convincing non-members to sign up before the February 18 deadline.

Also critical is persuading as many New Democrats as possible to make you their first, second or even third or fourth choice in the preferential balloting.

And while a few may doubt the willingness of Canadian voters to elect a woman as prime minister, that route to success has already been well travelled around the world. 

World of Women Leaders

With women currently serving as national leaders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to Brazilian President Dilma Roussef to Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir and many more, a party leader’s gender should not be an issue.

Nash’s biggest advantage may come down to her ability to build an electoral coalition of New Democrats determined to select a progressive leader who can grow the party while still maintaining its core values.

“We absolutely need to vote for someone who is first and foremost and extremely clearly a social democrat,” says Ducasse.  “That should sound obvious.”

Nash is definitely that – a social democrat who could lead the country.



kootcoot said...

Wow Bill, you are truly magical, you can take photographs from the future, as evidenced by the photo of yourself and Ms. Nash from December 2012. Perhaps you should let us know who will win the ReThuglican nomination and the General Election in the Excited Snakes next November - publish a photo of whoever's concession speech!

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks Koot - I travelled forward and backward through time to correct my typo!

But as to your question on the US - Romney will win the nomination for the Republicans and lose the election to Obama.

Anonymous said...

But as to your question on the US - Romney will win the nomination for the Republicans and lose the election to Obama.


Brian Topp will win the NDP leadership. Nash is too aligned to labour, and the NDP needs to moderate its labour influences and become more middle left. There's more traffic on the left lane than there is on the left shoulder.

I don't think Kooter has anything to worry about with the United States. If he's that worried, North Platte Nebraska's Democratic Party could use another volunteer.

Anonymous said...

In my mind, Peggy is too aligned with the old ways of the NDP. All the same old endorsements, but none of the new possibility. Even if she connects internally, she won't do the same in a larger Canadian crowd.

She'll do what most women leaders seem to do in this country/party: get their party through a rough time, then be thrown under the bus/decide they don't have the energy after a long fight back. She might be able to hold the old 15-20% of the vote. But she sure won't hold a lot of Jack's gains or grow it from there.

e.a.f. said...

Peggy Nash might be your choice for the leadership but not mine. If she is too aligned with labour it won't help the NDP in the future. Now of course we do remember how Audrey got elected leader, the labour portion of the party backed her. I don't know what it did for her or labour but I do know the NDP did not do well.

next we had Alexa Mac. Not much improvement there.

Nicole Turmel has been a good interium leader but she has always said she isn't running for the leadership.

Jack Layton was the most successful leader since Broadbent. What appealed to people was his personalities and his personal leadership qualities. People trusted both Broadbent and Layton.

I recall during one election the polls showed that although people would not vote for Broadbent as P.M. they did consider him the most trusted of the leaders.

Topp or Muclair are good candidates. The party needs to elect a leader who can continue to capitalize on the gains Jack Layton made. Peggy isn't going to do that.

The party needs to look for the candidate who has the best chance of holding the seats they have and building on them. This should not be all about ideology but about practical politics.

When Jack Layton walked in a parade and waved a people, they waved back. He had a way about him that made him hard to dislike. He did a lot of work in Quebec and it paid off.

Quebec had tried all the other parties and were willing to give Jack Layton a try. People were elected in Quebec who never thought they would get elected.

The NDP needs a leader who can perform in the House of Commons and get his new MPs into shape so they are on top of everything. The NDP needs a leader who can go toe to toe with the Harperits and their negative ad type of politics. We need someone who is fast on their feet and can gain the attention of the media and voters.

Anonymous said...

We need someone who is fast on their feet and can gain the attention of the media and voters

So who is "we"? "we" as in the bloggers here? Or "we" the bloggers who are NDP Members??

But you are correct. The NDP gets too cozy with labour, which is fine for the proverbial Union Man, and Union Girl, but doesn't do a thing for Joe and Mary Sixpack who have never belonged to a union.

Many here complain and squeal about Harper being cozy with Big Business, but the NDP being cozy with Big Labour is also a problem.

Brian Topp seems to be what the NDP should have, a current model of what could be best described as Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent blended together.

DPL said...

My choice is not quite decided upon, but lets remember that the NDP was formed by Labour and the old CCF. And after reading Jack's book I have come to the conclusion that he sure as heck didn't ignore the union relationship, nor did he ignore anyone

Anonymous said...

"My choice is not quite decided upon, but lets remember that the NDP was formed by Labour and the old CCF. And after reading Jack's book I have come to the conclusion that he sure as heck didn't ignore the union relationship, nor did he ignore anyone"

Correct history, but parties evolve or they become stagnant. The days of unions perpetually hating their union shop employers are pretty much over. The Labour Party in Britan was far more left wing than the federal NDP in Canada, but they were smart enough to moderate themselves so that ordinary folks who weren't union were interested enough in numbers to give the British Labour Party government.

A party can have its basic foundations, but the days of the old CCF are long over. Better to look where you want to drive, rather than continually look in the rear view mirror at what you had passed.

The NDP will want to attract the boys and girls at Union Station waiting for the train downtown to their offices, rather than just the boys and girls on Union Street, or living in Union Bay.

Anonymous said...

Who cares who wins the NDP leadership. They dropped the ball with Nicole whatsherface and Bob Rae is by far the face of the official opposition, not her. The NDP will stumble back to third place after its fluke performance after the last election. Nice try lefties.

Brian Topp, he's your typical labour loving extreme leftwing nut bar. He would never be PM. Your only hope is Mulclair. I hope he wins though, that would seal the deal for another majority and resote the natural order of things. The Liberals and Conservatives battling over the centre and the extremists with their 15% faithful screaming from union offices and ivory towers.

Anonymous said...

"Your only hope is Mulclair. I hope he wins though, that would seal the deal for another majority and resote the natural order of things"

No it wouldnm't. In fact it appears that Mulcair is too cheap to contribute $1100 (gets back $506
in a tax credit) to the NDP. He allegedly did not make his contribution as did the other NDP MPs.