There are substantive reasons why I support Peggy Nash for the NDP leadership, and ask other interested Canadians to back her candidacy as well.
The member of Parliament for Toronto Parkdale High-Park is a highly qualified candidate, chosen by her leader, Jack Layton, to take on the most important role in the party's caucus after his: Opposition critic for finance.
She will be promoted to be official opposition party leader, or someone else will be chosen for this demanding job, by an open election process: one member, one vote. As individual party members engage in debating candidate merits, and assessing their ability to perform, some points need to be considered carefully first.
On the important test of taking the measure of Stephen Harper, Nash is ready to do the top job now. She proved that as finance critic, exposing the weaknesses of the Conservatives through telling interventions bearing on the economic issues that matter most to Canadians: jobs and incomes.
Not every candidate has what it takes to get the party ready to step up, and replace a failing Harper government, that will fight dirty to maintain access to the spoils of office. After a democratic leadership selection, there is no time to go back and learn how to respond to trick questions, face an upset, or deal with frontal attacks from dedicated opponents trying to market fear.
Taking on leadership responsibility does not allow either for on the job training in the other official language. The new NDP leader must be able to go into Quebec where 60 per cent of its Commons seats are now found, and connect with its French language population from day one.
There is good time remaining to see which candidates have what is needed to do the job, and which do not. The vote will not occur until March 24, 2012.
The party membership will want to be reassured their candidate can perform in elections campaigns, on the floor of the House of Commons, and lead policy development on the issue of our times: moving to a green economy from a prosperity through trickle-down growth model (has it trickled down yet? people ask at Occupy Vancouver) while all the while fighting to secure improved employment prospects, working conditions, income security, and public services.
After the leadership race ends, the parliamentary caucus and members of the various provincial parties have to come together and bury differences amplified by the leadership contest. Nash can lead that important healing process, fairly, while drawing out the talents of the other contestants.
Nash's open leadership style and gracious public approach stand up well when compared to the secrecy and sullen one-man rule of Harper. Canadians will want to get to know her better. Consistently, Peggy has demonstrated her ability to communicate through the national media. In media interviews, platform speeches, or making a case for a policy, she is genuinely herself: secure, and strong.
The mainstream media coverage of her launch was more positive than anything received by a NDP leadership figure who was not already dead.
Being able to put yourself in another person's place is the first quality of someone elected to serve. And public service is what she has done since her first job after university, arranging tickets for Air Canada (once a proud publicly owned company) customers.
As is set out in our rich rabble.ca discussions on leadership in babble, our open forum, (in post 62, by a very active NDP partisan) there is no one important drawback to her candidacy.
Nash is an activist who knows the importance of labour support for the party. She also points to the need for labour to be labour, and the NDP to be strong enough on economic and social issues for union members to want to join the party.
Her personal qualities are exceptional. She has good work habits, she is fit, and she works well with others. Nash is not easily provoked, remains calm under intense pressure, and can rise to the occasion in both official languages.
She practices open politics, seeking out a wide selection of view, engaging with supporters, and identifying (and dialoguing with) opponents. A commitment to the public interest first, and foremost, elicits respect from citizens. In fact nothing else can be the basis for building the public support needed to making needed policy change.
Peggy Nash understands the need for poetry in our lives, and the role the creative imagination plays in a society, as befits someone who studied French literature at the University of Toronto. Her years of service to the Autoworkers union gave Nash a direct insight into the lives of people who work with their hands, and the rough deal they get in the country.
Her own family life, with her husband of 30 years, and three sons, is rich in the experience of being a mother, facing the tragic death of her beloved older brother, and caring for aging parents. She knows about the joys, the challenges, and the struggles of everyday life.
Fortunately for New Democrats, one brave, capable, distinguished woman has stepped forward, and offered to serve her party, as leader of the official opposition. As announced on her Facebook page, Peggy Nash is already on the road speaking to Canadians. People will have a chance to judge for themselves how her ideas differ from those of our tyrannical prime minister. Facing severe challenges from the world economy, has Canada found a leader who can secure the trust of Canadians, and take the country in a new direction? I think so. Watch the race closely. You may agree.
Duncan Cameron is the president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.