NDP Leadership #93

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Chris Borst

I want to echo the request for Dewar supporters to explain what they like about him. There's no doubt that he has considerable support, but I'm not clear why. Of all the candidates still in the race, he is the only one for whom I have yet to grasp his "value proposition" (as the marketers call it).

Mulcair is running on his electability and his ability to "take the fight" to Harper.

Topp is running on his staff experience and social democratic values/policy wonkery.

Nash is running on her labour negotiator background and understanding of the manufacturing economy.

Cullen is running on his wit and his joint nomination plan.

Ashton is running on her youth.

Singh is running on his small business background, a pharmacist for pharmacare.

But what is Dewar running on? I sometimes get the impression he's running on his performance as NDP foreign affairs critic, a performance which, as I understand it, is seen as quite laudable by parliamentary standards. But he doesn't really seem to talk foreign policy much. And it seems unlikely to account for his popularity.

I should note, btw, that I fully appreciate that none of these characterizations does justice to the qualities of any of the candidates, including Dewar. These are not well-rounded portraits, nor are they intended to be. They are, on purpose, the soundbite versions.

I should also note that I am an Undecided in this race. None of my characterizations are intended to be invidious.


Nathan Cullen

Pros & Cons: He and Niki Ashton had the third best performances in Québec City. He did for his thoughtfulness and charm, while she did for her fluency in French. Nathan Cullen is the closest thing there is in this race to any candidate that has any sort of folksy charm. He throws out humourous anecdotes, he makes good observations, he is good at attacking without sounding mean. As has been pointed out before, many of his attacks in fact seem very sneaky. They often come in the form of a compliment that is really not so much of a compliment. His cooperation plan is a stinker however, and the remote chance he might implement it as leader I am very loathe to vote for him. At the same time, his cooperation plan is attracting a surprising number of Greens and Liberals to the party. People that might have the NDP as a second choice but are loathe to give up their first choice (without a fight). Good on Nathan but bad on the party for his non-starter idea. Also, if anyone has any doubts about the quality of Cullen's French, they are duly founded. He makes a lot of mistakes, he mispronounces very easy words, and he needs improvement. So if Dewar and Singh weren't in the race, I don't know if I would want Cullen their either; without substantial improvement.

General concerns: I worry about Cullen's political judgment. He has seemed to take a shoot first, answer questions later approach to politics. He is also the most loose cannon when it comes to statements and name-calling about the Prime Minister (i.e. "this is the most boneheaded", etc). This language is deeply alienating. It is also an invitation for the public not to take you seriously. It is an aspect of Cullen's delivery that has been largely overlooked, because of the welcome addition to this race of his spark of humour and charm.


Wage, I was told by a friend in the Nash campaign that. Someone else here on babble, forgot which babbler, said he was approached by a campaign to do the same.

I suppose it isn't wrong unless they're coming on here to attack other candidates.

I'm not sure why you're getting bent out of shape over me saying that?!?! It's not something I made up... unless my friend in the Nash campagin is lying to me which I strongly doubt.

wage zombie

Hunky_Monkey wrote:

Wage... I was told by a friend working for Peggy Nash that they have a team to "infiltrate" places like this discussion forum. So, what part of what I said is crap?

All you have is speculation.

Is that team being paid?

Are they "infiltrating" this place, or places like this?

What do you mean by "infiltrate"?

Your now frequent vague comments are both strange and annoying.

Strange, because I see no evidence whatsoever of a paid Nash team on babble.  Some long time babblers will say they like her if asked, and she has one very enthusiastic supporter who does not strike me as a professional.  If Peggy Nash is paying money for a team to infiltrate babble, well, I don't think they're very effective.

Your comments are annoying because you never seem to go into detail.  It's always very vague and shadowy.  Other, unnamed campaigns.

I have seen you suggest the same thing on multiple occasions to another babbler, suggesting that he is from the Topp campaign (and not Brian).

It just really lowers the vibe here, man.  Babblers are politically engaged people.  Some of them are going to get involved with campaigns.

I hate to get into the meta, I just find your comments somewhat smarmy, and it doesn't seem like you're planning to stop.

ETA: Honestly I don't even care if campaigns send supporters here.  If I were running a leadership campaign I'd want to make sure my message is getting out.  But I would think for campaigns babble is more of a way to listen to what people are thinking than to push their own narratives.

I just don't know why you keep mentioning vague comments about this...I don't get why it matters.  It strikes me as a compliment to a campaign's ability to engage the networks.

Just to be clear, something like a sock puppet campaign (ie. a campaign working managing multiple accounts) would be worth condemning.  But I see no evidence of that here.


Niki Ashton

Pros & Cons: Niki Ashton came third for me in Québec City debate because her French was as advertised. She had the third best French and the third best night. She was substantive in response to some questions on foreign policy (apparently an area of strength for her, knowledge-wise), but she was weak and evasive most other things. The lob ball from Mulcair on getting youth involved in politics was hard to explain for me. For one it highlighted the fact that Ashton was very young (which she did not counter), at the same time she didn't give the greatest answer as to how to get young people involved (it IS a tough question afterall). I don't think Ashton necessarily got this and I don't know what Mulcair was hitting at either because they both reacted rather warmly towards eachother afterwards. I feel like it was soft knock from Mulcair, to highlight her youth, while at the same time giving her some room to breathe, to show that she had some respect from Mulcair. Anyways, if people are wondering what the hell I am talking about, check out the video on cpac.ca. Duncan Cameron also commented on the oddness of this moment in the debate. It was the strangest for me. In terms of speaking style, Ashton was less robotic than usual but still very sing-songy with a equal measure repitition of slogans, including yes...wait for it..."new politics" on a couple of ocassions.

General concerns: Niki Ashton is likeable and her language skills are well deserving of praise. She still makes lots of mistakes but relative to the other candidates she is well-ahead of all but Topp and Mulcair. The problem? Her lack of substance. While she has released more statements as the campaign goes on, so much of her appeal has rested in bromides about embracing good things, like peace and cooperation. I'm not kidding. She is loveable but not credible. Personality-wise she also comes across as the least competitive of candidates, even less so than Singh. This has me wondering if she even wants to win. Unionist said she had asked him to rank her second. Why not first? Niki, why are you in this race? I don't want you to leave but I still have no idea what you are really about and whether or not you really want to win? Anyways, I am concerned Ashton may finish off this race remembered fondly for being there but not for any particular moment or idea. The ball is in her court.


Just received an email from the Dewar campaign. Seems he's taking a direct swipe at not just the frontrunner but Brian Topp as well...

My background is in organizing and more than any other candidate Paul Dewar has grassroots organizing experience. He understands that we will not win the next election without building a true grassroots on-the-ground base in our Quebec ridings and in the next 70 ridings outside of Quebec.

Paul has faced a withering attack during this campaign about his abilities in the French language. He is not the best French speaker of the leadership candidates, but he has performed admirably in both French and English debates and improves everyday. Paul's French comprehension is excellent and like Jack, Paul knows how to connect with voters. Quebec voters, like all voters, will ultimately judge us on our values and principles and those must be social democratic values and principles. In 2011, Quebecers accepted Jack's offer to join us in building a social democratic governing option.

Paul Dewar has not reshaped or adjusted his social democratic principles and values just for this leadership campaign. It is no surprise that Paul has released more policy than the other candidates, as he wants to ensure New Democrats know what he is all about and that he is a genuine social democrat.

Paul is not about to dishonour or set aside our party's principles. He is not about moving our party to the right and becoming another Liberal Party. He will lead and campaign as who we really are, and not sacrifice the hard work of the past to create a new "Third Way," or emulate Tony Blair to form the next government.

wage zombie

I'm bent out of shape about it because you've been making nebulous accusations about vague, but insidious behaviour by "some other campaigns", without explaining why it matters or why we should care.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture


Paul has faced a withering attack during this campaign about his abilities in the French language. He is not the best French speaker of the leadership candidates, but he has performed admirably in both French and English debates and improves everyday.

I guess that was written before yesterday's debate. Wink


Martin Singh

Pros & Cons: I don't know what Jean Lapierre was on but I thought Martin Singh had the 2nd worst French of the debate. He was confident in French though and I admire his tenacity given that he learned what he learned as a non-politician from rural (?) Nova Scotia. Martin Singh has gradually lost coherence on policy as the race has gone on. He continues to promote his policy documents on pharmacare and entrepreneurs, which is great, but it's time for something new. The fact that he hasn't branched out much from his areas of clear expertise (a small businessman who runs pharmacies) makes me worry that there are not many people (beyond Martin) contributing ideas to his campaign. Peter Stoffer (Martin's MP) decision to "go Swiss" and not endorse someone in this campaign has me wondering if that wasn't done as a courtesy to Singh. Stoffer has certainly speculated about retiring in the past and even considered briefly running for mayor of Halifax, but interest waned. Could it be that Singh might run to replace a towering Stoffer in his own riding of Sackville-Eastern Shore? If so, not a bad start! The only other thing I can say in Singh's favour is that he is taking every opportunity to talk about small business people inside the NDP and stress to the media and debate audience that they are not a rarity but in fact quite common and that they share a lot of his (and by extension the other candidates') vision for the party. This is publicity you cannot buy. Should Singh stay in the race? In my opinion no, but I am grateful for his contribution to the race.

General concerns: No endorsements. No focus on new policies. Questions about some of his policies. Nice guy but not sure why I should make him NDP leader.

Lord Palmerston

Pretty weak.  This email doesn't give a compelling reason as to why Dewar offers anything no other candidate in the race can offer, besides "grassroots organizing experience" (which he certainly doesn't have a monopoly on).

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I must say, Howard, that I really enjoy reading your comments here. Smile

flight from kamakura

dewar is just a weak candidate.  like i'm said, i'm happy to have him stay in the race, he's certainly earned it, having learned to speak a semi-coherent french in a crash-course environment.  and he'll probably be a decent junior minister one day, but we need to move on now, no sense in belaboring a point that will eventually take strong hold among the mainstream of ndp members.

prediction: dewar's support continues to slide and he goes out before topp.


Paul Dewar

Pros & Cons: This is hard. My mother tried to teach me not to say anything if I didn't have anything nice to say, but I don't have much nice to say about Paul. Unlike Cullen, Singh, and Nash (who could benefit from some improvement I think), Dewar has in fact improved his French. Nonetheless, it is not nearly good enough. Not even close. Not even in the same ballpark. So he should drop. What more is there to say? Hmm...okay, I don't think he did well in the last two debates. I held back on saying it after Halifax but I think he has been bloodied by the attacks that have been launched on him by Topp, Nash, Cullen, and Mulcair. The most devastating attack on him (about the unilingual deputy leader) was launched in this last debate by Nash and it was pretty spot on. Dewar didn't have much of a response. If you are Dewar and have a brilliant campaign manager, maybe you don't care, but I think much of the grassroots does, and those grassroots clued in enough to know that Dewar is in over his head on French, are probably looking another way.

Gratuitous parting shot: I hope this doesn't get me banned from babble for crass insensitivity, but what is the deal with the Dewar campaign's explanations about his troubles in French? They say that he has trouble learning due to dyslexia. Very fair. They also say that he can read, write, and understand French just fine, it is the speaking that is the problem. Wait. What? Somebody please educate me about dyslexia but I thought the problem had to do with reading things, but Dewar's campaign says his reading is fine, and so is his comprehension, and so is his writing, so...are we square?


Thanks for all your perceptive analysis, Howard. Much appreciated. (And much agreed with.)


Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

flight from kamakura wrote:

prediction: dewar's support continues to slide and he goes out before topp.

I wonder if that faux poll Dewar put out today is a sign of desperation?

Brian Glennie

Howard wrote:

At the same time, his cooperation plan is attracting a surprising number of Greens and Liberals to the party. 

Do you have any evidence to support this?


Boom Boom wrote:

I must say, Howard, that I really enjoy reading your comments here. Smile

Thanks Smile. For what it's worth here is my personal ranking of the candidates. Saganash's exit from the race has made my first place choice really easy now. It is Mulcair. Topp is the one that has bounced around the most for me. There is lots to like but...well, I refer you to my post about Topp above.

1) Mulcair

big drop

2) Nash

3) Topp

4) Ashton

5) Cullen

6) Singh

7) Dewar

I may end up ranking Topp second. Putting hard feelings aside, I think ffk might be correct and Topp IS the best alternative to Mulcair but I am still giving Nash a chance. Topp though is really good at making me angry with his campaign tactics (and history with the NDP doing an about face), so who knows. I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face. I don't want to hurt the party. Maybe Topp is the second best. He is going to be portrayed as the elitist backroom boy. Maybe...so what? I just don't have the stomach for it yet. I'm also not sure yet if it would cause more harm than good (choosing Topp). Cullen and Ashton are also likely to jump around in my rankings. I like Cullen a lot and find him a more "credible" leader than Ashton BUT I don't trust his political judgment. So Ashton leads Cullen and could yet rise with more policy and gravitas. Singh and Dewar are out of it for me. Nash is there but there isn't much of a foundation under her #2 ranking for me. I am waiting to see if someone pulls the rug. Anyways, Mulcair is my choice now that Saganash is out of the race. I wish Saganash had stayed.

Two issues that concern me about the ways I rank candidates is that policy and the NDP's fortunes in Québec are very important to me and maybe I allow them to colour my judgment too much. I am very worried about the NDP being able to hold its support in Québec. I am also glad so many candidates have released strategy ideas for how the NDP can grow after this race (many of which are very good). This has been among the most useful contributions of the race for me.


Brian Glennie wrote:

Howard wrote:

At the same time, his cooperation plan is attracting a surprising number of Greens and Liberals to the party. 

Do you have any evidence to support this?

Not a lot. There are people on twitter I know to be or claim to be Liberal or Green party supporters that are supporting Cullen. I have also watched some of his videos and with some of the people in them, I get the vibe that some are on the margins of being either NDP or Green party supporters. Lastly, I have always though LeadNow and some of the other organised groups getting behind Cullen's idea for cooperation are fronts for soft-Liberal and Green Party (as well as NDP) supporters. So this is what I am basing my impressions on of Cullen's ability to attract marginal NDP voters. Anyways...not.a.lot.


JeffWells wrote:

Thanks for all your perceptive analysis, Howard. Much appreciated. (And much agreed with.)

Thanks JeffWells. I have appreciated your posts recently too. I also think you identified talent in Saganash long before I did. Chapeau.







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