Who Should Be The Next NDP Leader?

It may seem hasty with Jack Layton having only died a couple days ago.  But already speculation has begun as to who should be the next NDP leader.  (To be fair, Mr. Layton likely knew the end was near and was able to share his own opinions on this topic as well.)

I’m not an insider by any means but from my perch as someone who follows this stuff a bit more than the average joe but less than the politicos, here’s my take on what the NDP need in their next leader.

  • I think being bilingual is all but required for a national leader these days.  (Who was the last Federal leader for any party who wasn’t bilingual?  I have a memory of watching a federal debate a few years back with one person struggling along in the French debate with the ear piece.)
  • Wouldn’t it be amazing to find someone who’s multilingual to trump the bilingual thing and be an even better reflection of Canada’s diversity? (Layton spoke English , French and I believe conversational Cantonese.)
  • I’d love to see someone young, energetic and progressive with new ideas and vision, perhaps even from on the fringes or even outside of the traditional NDP party politics.  (Of course, that sort of describes Jack Layton when he won the leadership, doesn’t it?)
  • Highly educated is good.  (Did you know Jack Layton had a PhD in political science from York?  He didn’t advertise the fact – and maybe it’s a hindrance to be seen an an educated elitist – Ignatieff anyone? – but it’s good to have that credential.)
  • I’d love to have a leader from the west and of course have a bias towards a leader from Saskatchewan which is where the CCF/NDP have the strongest roots, have had the most provincial success but where the party is having a long lull in terms of federal success.  But with the recent breakthrough in Quebec, there’s pretty good odds the next NDP leader will be from Quebec or have strong Quebec connections, I’d imagine – which is too bad as it falls into that old Quebec-Ontario axis of thinking without regard for the important role the west is now playing (hint: Stephen Harper is PM partly because of his party’s dominance in the West.)  Leaders with strong connections to multiple places in Canada are great for hitting multiple checkboxes for people.  For example,  Layton was born and raised in Quebec but best known as a Toronto city councilor.
  • Personally, I’m not too concerned about whether the leader is male or female (or what their ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation is for that matter – there’s a part of me that wishes we could get past all those types of identity politics considerations and just judge people as people. Of course, I say that as a highly privileged white, straight male in our society.)
  • I’m probably missing some other important considerations – Layton was known for his common touch, his drive, his organizational skills – all of which would be vital for a new leader.

Even though I compared a lot of these points back to what Jack Layton brought to the NDP, I think it would be the worst mistake in the world to try to find a Jack Layton clone.  A new leader is a great opportunity to renew a variety of things about a party, its policies, its approaches.

So have I described anyone specific with these qualifications?  Right now, the pundits are saying it’ll be a race between party president, Brian Topp against the party’s deputy leader (and the original NDP beachhead MP in Quebec), Thomas Mulcair.  There are lots of other potential legitimate candidates as well.

But I always like the (far) outside-the-box choices.  A couple spring to mind…

  • Niki Ashton except she’s probably too young right now.
  • If the Liberals can have Bob Rae, would the NDP want Gerard Kennedy?  (Not sure if he’s bilingual though?  That might’ve hurt him in the Liberal leadership race if I remember correctly.)
  • His love is civic politics (and as a Calgary Mayor he’s probably a Liberal too) but why not Naheed Nenshi?
  • Roy Romanow?  He’s getting up there in age and I don’t think he speaks French either.  But crazier things have happened.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 3

  1. From Head Tale - Random Thoughts from the Indian Head-Milestone NDP Fundraiser on 18 Sep 2011 at 8:40 pm

    […] Why is that the case?  Niki seems to hit many of the criteria I listed in my original post on potential next leaders : bilingual (actually multi-lingual), western, young, progressive, highly educated.  If she […]

  2. From Head Tale - Some Thoughts on the Federal NDP Leadership Race on 12 Feb 2012 at 9:28 pm

    […] folks I know in Saskatchewan have gathered behind Niki Ashton’s campaign and looking back at the checklist of qualifications I wanted in the next leader back in August of last year, she checks off pretty much every single one.  Plus I can all but […]

  3. From Head Tale - I’m Voting For Nathan Cullen (And If You Want Stephen Harper Gone, You Should Too!) on 13 Mar 2012 at 9:48 pm

    […] campaign.  But there’s also the fact that more than any other candidate, Niki checked off pretty much every point on my initial list of what I was looking for in the next NDP leader – youth, education, progressive ideals, multilingual, prairie […]

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