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Friday, December 30, 2011

Leading the official opposition: the candidates


In the name of full disclosure: when it comes to the race to lead Canada’s NDP, I’m fully committed. Paul Dewar has captured my heart, mind and spare time.
That said, with the recent BC NDP convention in town, I thought it a good chance to meet a few of the other candidates vying to become leader of Canada’s official opposition. An effort I found somewhat mixed.
The Townhall event was great. So nice to see candidates together, talking about all the ways we can make people’s lives better. And it established some clear talent and intelligence in the field.
  • Romeo was charming and a powerful speaker.
  • Topp proved his reputation as a backroom strategist/policy guy – but also proved that doesn’t equate to being a strong public figure: he was boo’ed back to his seat after the first question…having twice intentionally ignored the moderator’s requests to wrap up.
  • Nathan has a great stage presence and ease. And his humour is wonderful; but it seems to risk sacrificing content. End of the day, this needs to be about people and their problems…not about developing a personality. (Tough balance to strike between those two.)
  • Peggy was expectedly articulate (reminded me of my childhood spent at so many union events: that well-practiced speaking pattern built around garnering applause from supportive crowds).
  • Thomas was also well seasoned and professional. I must say though – for me –there’s something about him that’s more lullaby/calming than inspirational or engaging.
  • Niki’s fire and articulate words made me proud to see young women staking out a voice…she’s a great asset to the future of our party!
  • Martin was – admittedly – surprisingly good. But still doesn’t make my list of contenders. Interesting addition to the race though.
  • Robert was warm and came across as experienced. (Maybe it’s the soft crow’s feet around his eyes that got me though…)
  • Paul: still my favourite. But the plentiful reasons for this will come in later posts (but will include his balance between experience and the youth/energy we need to build the party, a caring and positive vision, and that extra sparkle you just can’t teach).
In addition to watching the town hall, I tried to introduce myself to a few candidates. Again, in the name of full disclosure, I was wearing my Paul pin the whole weekend, and seen often with him or at his booth. So my affiliation and first round support was well declared.
I managed to meet 4 of them (saw Mulcair a few times at a distance but he didn’t seem to be lingering). Topp lived up to his (unfortunate) reputation: he barely made eye contact, then turned to try and chat with the older man who I had been talking to. Guess I didn’t look endorsement worthy.
And, sadly (while I LOVE some of the people on her team), Peggy did the exact same as Topp. A half smile, a hand shake and a quick turn to somebody who seemed to look more important. I found myself more disappointed in Peggy than Brian though. And it took me a few days to figure out why.
I have been blessed to be surrounded by a lot of very intelligent, powerful and supportive women. The kind who genuinely go extra steps to help support another in the field. (Really, I feel very lucky.) I guess this weekend was one of those needed reminders that being a woman doesn’t mean you’re actually a feminist. That, or – unlike Paul who seems to stop every few steps to chat with whoever makes eye-contact – not all politicians take the time to engage with people at every level of the party. Either way, disappointing.
Anyway, I also met two of the others in the race. Niki was totally lovely (as was her mother). She was articulate, friendly and smart. She’s going to be a player to watch as our party moves forward.
Robert too was lovely: intelligent and thoughtful…in a gentle but powerful way.
Paul, I continue to like more and more, each time I talk with him. He’s just a nice man/husband/dad who “gets it.” And he’s so genuinely interested in getting to know people. Most importantly, his desire to find ways we can better look after each other (and actually create “a more caring Canada”…as he says) is so in tune with my own view of what this country both can and should be. It’s refreshing and inspirational.
Anyway, if nothing else, this weekend affirmed my support for Paul. And it helped start to sort where the others rank in relation to each other.

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