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Monday, January 16, 2012

Dewar emerging as best choice for NDP leader

Dewar emerging as best choice for NDP leader

The past year was a year of growth, and challenge, for the federal New Democratic Party. A country used to sending New Democrats to Ottawa to be the moral conscience of the country changed things up when on May 2 voters sent the very first NDP Official Opposition to Ottawa.
It’s no secret that a significant component of the NDP victory was the popularity of Jack Layton, particularly in Quebec, where he earned the nickname “Le Bon Jack.” His ability to connect with everyday Canadians wherever they were, on whatever issues were important to them was the difference between his success and the failure of Liberal Lead Michael Ignatieff.
In an outpouring of grief, Canada said goodbye to Layton when he passed away Aug. 22. From messages written in chalk in front of Toronto city hall to vigils held on street corners all across the country, it was clear that he had impacted his country in spectacularly positive ways.
The House that Jack Built is no longer a protest party. From here on out, the NDP will be a major player in Canadian politics, with the real possibility of forming a future government.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Paul Dewar is the best choice to become the NDP leader, for now, and for the future. Dewar, the first candidate to make a visit to the Waterloo Region, is MP for Ottawa Centre. He is a versatile leader within the NDP caucus, having first held the critic roles for the Treasury Board and democratic reform before moving to foreign affairs, where he has shined.
With most of the NDP’s seat pickups coming in the province of Quebec, it’s important that the new leader be able to address issues important to Quebeckers as much as the issues important in the rest of Canada, including those here in Waterloo Region.
The reality is that, for all our differences, the issues are the same: jobs, the economy, education, health care.
It doesn’t matter what part of the country you’re from, these issues are important to us all.
While visiting Waterloo on Nov. 24, Dewar noted that small- and medium-sized businesses must have the opportunity to create jobs in their own communities. Rather than dishing out tax breaks to massively profitable corporations so they can send jobs overseas, tax incentives need to find their way into the hands of smaller businesses.
Dewar has proposed “Your Canada Year,” which will pay one year’s tuition for a post-secondary student in exchange for one year’s worth of service in the non-profit sector. This will allow students to complete their education while building capacity into community driven organizations that provide much needed social services.
With increasing health care services being consumed by those who would rather be in their homes, Dewar is proposing an expansion of health care services to include greater investments in home care, so that people can get the help they need in their own homes, wherever possible.
Dewar has the people skills necessary to connect with others. It is important that the next leader be able to walk into a hall filled with people and engage with them in a way that shows how important their concerns are to him. Layton did that, and I believe Dewar can do that too.
New Democrats from across the country will gather in Toronto March 24 to choose the new leader. Dewar has the necessary experience, is broadly personable and engaging, and will bring great ideas to the table. When I put those together I see a proven leader, an excellent Opposition leader, and the best candidate for prime minister.
Peter Thurley is a member of The Record’s community editorial board and was the NDP candidate in Kitchener Centre in the May 2 federal election.

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