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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dewar building formidable campaign machine across country

Dewar building formidable campaign machine across country

NDP leadership candidate Paul Dewar steps up his French-language training, moved in with his instructor for a week.

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
NDP leadership candidate Paul Dewar.

PARLIAMENT HILL—As NDP leadership candidates Brian Topp and MP Thomas Mulcair have been grabbing headlines, NDP leadership candidate and MP Paul Dewar is building a formidable campaign machine across the country.
A spokesman for Mr. Dewar’s (Ottawa Centre, Ont.) campaign says it polled thousands of party members before the holidays, established paid and unpaid campaign leaders and organizers across the country, and has introduced Mr. Dewar to New Democrats in nearly every corner of every province.
Mr. Dewar has been so determined to brush up on his French-language skills that he moved in with his male volunteer language tutor for an entire week before Christmas.
If the campaign Mr. Dewar is running were scripted into a political backroom movie, Mr. Topp, the former party president who suggested the race might be boring, could use a different word for the title.
Sun News reporter David Akin drew New Democrat attention over the holidays with a blog that made many rounds as the first widely-circulated assessment of the eight leadership candidates, perhaps not so much to the liking of Mr. Topp, placing him as it did somewhere neither at or near the head of the pack.
“The conventional narrative you may have read is that there is a top tier of candidates and a bottom tier of candidates,” Mr. Akin wrote.
“In fact, it seems more likely that there are really three tiers of candidates,” he said. “A trio of candidates are doing very well and are clearly separating themselves from the pack when it comes to more first-ballot support. That trio is Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar.”
That column and other stories since Christmas have drawn a fresh round of reporting and opinion writing about the race, which seemed to lull into near silence following the first official leadership debate in early December in Ottawa.
But Joe Cresse, spokesman for Mr. Dewar’s campaign, told The Hill Timesthat, at least with his team, nothing could be further from the truth, behind the scenes and from the moment Mr. Dewar announced his candidacy at the Lord Elgin Hotel in downtown Ottawa.
Even though Mr. Dewar handles himself perfectly well without need of interpreters in scrums and Commons committees, there is little question he was not as smooth and comfortable as he could be in the other official language, despite his upbringing in Ottawa in the midst of a highly-political family.
Mr. Cresse said Mr. Dewar’s French tutor, whom he did not identify, has been travelling with him throughout the campaign, and the list of stops is long.
In the first three months of the campaign, Mr. Dewar has visited 41 cities and towns across the country, attending 89 events.
As he was meeting and greetings hundreds and hundreds of New Democrats face to face, his campaign, under the management of one of the best known election directors in the party, Dan Mackenzie, who once worked with Mr. Topp at ACTRA’s Toronto region office, where Mr. Topp was director, established paid lead organizers in every major city, as well as key regions, Mr. Cresse said.
The Dewar campaign has 60 organizers in Ottawa alone, covering eastern Ontario as well as West Quebec.
Over two weeks in December, the campaign telephoned 12,000 NDP members, covering all 10 provinces.
“The first phase of the campaign was putting an infrastructure in place, and the ground game, in order to win a seven-month leadership campaign, in addition to introducing Paul,” Mr. Cresse said.
From the telephone canvassing and voter identification, as well as anecdotal remarks and insider talk, Mr. Cresse said the view inside the campaign matches opinions expressed by Mr. Akin, as well as those by Postmedia columnist Stephen Maher, who also placed Mr. Topp in the middle of the pack over the holiday break this week.
“Everything that I’m hearing is similar to what I’m reading, which is that Topp, you know, it’s a lot of air but it’s not a lot of ground support,” said Mr. Cresse.
“In a ranked ballot leadership race, which this is, the question is who has growth potential, so not just who is very strong in terms of peoples first choices, but also who is very strong in terms of the second choice. No one is going to win this thing on the first ballot, I can assure you. The question is, who is going to be able to grow.”
“what we’ve been hearing is that Paul is very strong on first ballot, but even stronger on second,” Mr. Cresse said.

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