Is Mulcair taking the lead in federal NDP race (and will Crawley be new Liberal Party of Canada President)?

Jan 10th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

Mike Crawley, candidate for President, Liberal Party of Canada.

[UPDATED JANUARY 18]. The main event in Canadian progressive politics this week is the biennial convention of the federal Liberals in Ottawa — Friday, January 13 to Sunday, January 15.  Our first big hope here is that the Grits in their wisdom vote YES for resolution 114 : “Canadian Identity in the 21st Century … BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada, urge the Parliament of Canada to form an all party committee to study the implementation of instituting a Canadian head of state popularly elected and sever formal ties with the British Crown.”

Our second big hope is that Mike Crawley is elected President, Liberal Party of Canada. Neither of these hopes may be realized. That’s democracy. Whatever happens we will continue to believe in both causes — and do what little we can to help move them ahead (with special reference to the first one, since no individual in his or her own right can exactly be a cause)!

NDP Leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair from Montreal looks at family photos with his Aunt Monique from Prince George, BC.

Meanwhile, the ongoing federal NDP leadership race may be, as the Winnipeg Free Press has just suggested, “a real snoozefest.”  But the irrepressible statistician Eric Grenier has nonetheless just figured out an intriguing if not entirely convincing approach to measuring who may or may not be ahead. See, eg: “Mulcair gathering steam in NDP race, Wikipedia tea leaves suggest” ; “Can Wikipedia predict the next NDP leader? If so, Paul Dewar is in trouble” ; and “What Wikipedia Can Tell Us about the NDP Race … beside who the candidates are and how to spell their names.”

Mr. Grenier’s essential trick is to judge the current eight candidates by the number of times the Wikipedia sites on them have been visited recently. He allows that the methodology is not perfect, on various grounds. But, applied judiciously, he argues that: “Over the last two months …  Mr. Mulcair has held a narrow edge over Ms. Nash. Mr. Topp has fallen to third. This matches nicely with what many have perceived as the current state of the race — that Mr. Topp is now trailing behind Mr. Mulcair and Ms. Nash.”

Niki Ashton, from northern Manitoba — youngest NDP leadership candidate.

Our own private soundings suggest that Nathan Cullen from northern BC is also getting close to this interpretation of the top three. We remain impressed by the youthful Niki Ashton from northern Manitoba, currently campaigning in Alberta, where she has nicely complained that: “We’re seeing a real arrogance arise with regards to our interests and the assumption that the Conservative government is the only authority to speak for Western Canadians.” And we remain impressed by the political mind of Brian Topp as well.

But in our talks with NDP insiders we have also been impressed by the extent to which Thomas Mulcair does appear to be gaining traction. (As someone, eg, who could stand up to Stephen Harper in an election campaign, mano a mano, etc. And btw: “Although he lives in Quebec and represents the Quebec riding of Outremont, Mulcair has a Prince George [BC] connection. His Aunt, Monique Wyse, has lived in Prince George for the past 40 years. She is also Mulcair’s Godmother.”)

“Like many younger Canadians, Nathan Cullen enjoys reading urban weekly papers” — even if he is an MP for northern BC! Photo: Charlie Smith.

We have similarly been intrigued by John Ibbitson’s assessment of the NDP race late last week, which distinguished between “progressives” and “social democrats.”  Mr. Ibbitson is of course a conservative himself, but equally a gifted observer of Canadian politics at large. And he thinks that: “Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair and British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen probably come closest to fitting the progressive label, while Toronto MP Peggy Nash is closer to the social-democratic roots of the party. Mr. Topp advised Mr. Layton, which makes him more of a progressive. But his rhetoric and platform lean more toward the social democratic.”

There are five more NDP leadership debates to go. The next is Sunday, January 29, in Halifax.  And the final decision won’t come until Saturday, March 24, in Toronto. A lot could change between now and then. Our most confident prediction at the moment — or at least our fondest hope — is that the race won’t continue to be a snoozefest for too much longer. (And meanwhile again, local party members have selected law professor Craig Scott as the NDP candidate for Jack Layton’s old “east-end riding of Toronto-Danforth.”)

UPDATE WEDNESDAY JANUARY 18: As it happens, and perhaps in an effort to deal with the snoozefest issue,  there will be a debate among the current eight NDP leadership candidates in Toronto tonight. As The Canadian Press has explained this “event is not one of six ‘official’ debates organized by the party, but is one of several such events organized locally … The next official debate is in Halifax Jan. 29, with others followed every two weeks in Quebec City, Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver and at the March convention.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Mulcair’s position in the race has probably been affected in some degree by the revelation that he has dual Canadian and French citizenship. See “NDP’s Thomas Mulcair vows to keep French citizenship … Will this news hurt Mulcair’s campaign? … Not many Canadians seemed to care about the issue when former PM John Turner, who was born in England, was a dual citizen during his time in office … But, in 2006, when it was learned that then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion held French nationality, it triggered a nation-wide rebuke … At the time, several NDP MPs argued that a leader of a federal party should not have dual citizenship.”

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