For voting members, what does it means to select the next leader of the NDP?
It means choosing someone who can make the failure of Harper Conservative policies the story of the next three years.
It means selecting someone Canadians can trust to do a better job running the country than Stephen Harper.
It means electing someone who can inspire Quebecers to believe the NDP can form a government after the 2015 election (with or without support from the Liberals), and who can build electoral appeal across Canada, a matter of greater importance to Quebec voters than is generally recognized.
It means electing someone who has the potential to grow the party in Ontario, where the Conservatives won their majority, and where Harper tax cuts are not building factories or transit, or improving public services.
It means choosing a leader who can win British Columbia, where Stephen Harper does not want Canadians to know what environmental destruction awaits B.C., since it will finish the Conservatives in the third largest province for generations to come.
It means electing someone who, unlike the Conservatives, opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline across the Great Bear Rainforest of Northern B.C., and the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline into Burnaby (part of Greater Vancouver); someone who will not allow giant super tankers to cruise the treacherous Northern Pacific coast, or run past Stanley Park into the Burrard Inlet.
It means selecting someone who understands the significance of arresting climate change, and ensuring the economy is both sustainable, and just.
It means electing a leader who will ensure energy security for Canadians, promote affordable housing for young and old, support generous social programs, make the tax system more equitable, and invest in public infrastructure.
Electing a leader means electing the parliamentarian who can best keep the 101 (soon to be 102) member NDP caucus pulling together: giving the young NDP members from Quebec a chance to shine; treating all members views respectfully; and, overall, getting everybody to work to the best of their abilities.
It means selecting a leader who listens to others, knows how to build a consensus, and make difficult decisions on what matters for the future. It means someone able to work in French with Francophone colleagues, and relate well to men, and to women, young and old, urban and rural, as well as visible minorities, newcomers, and First Nations peoples.
It means choosing someone who will make building the party a priority, and who understands hiring federal party organizers for the first time in its history helped Jack Layton build the orange wave.
It means electing someone who will lead from values that are not adapted to what the corporate media thinks is desirable, and to the contrary, who understands the importance of taking back power from corporations.
It means electing someone committed to building a social democratic movement in Canada, because social change never occurs without citizen mobilization.
It means electing someone who understands that the government must do all in its power to build a Canadian economy not dependent on American largesse.
It means electing a leader who understands negotiations, who knows that re-opening NAFTA, say, in order to remove rights to sue Canadian governments, ceded to corporations under Article 11, entails trading away something else deemed non-negotiable in the original NAFTA negotiations, and who, therefore, understands clearly re-negotiating NAFTA is not a winning proposition.
It means adopting policies that Canada needs for its own good, such as an export tax on bitumen, even if they contravenes NAFTA, because Canada and the U.S. can always trade under WTO rules that put less constraints on Canada than NAFTA (while freeing Canada from attacks by American corporations under NAFTA Article 11).
It means electing a leader who can be trusted, whose personal character supporters can vouch for, someone who will maintain the confidence of the NDP membership, and win the respect of Canadians.
It means electing a leader who has broken new ground in improving people’s lives, say, by negotiating same-sex benefits under collective agreements.
It means electing a leader with courage, someone, say, who takes up the case of a transgendered citizen, and ensures that the persecuted employee can exercise every right of any Canadian citizen in the workplace, and in society at large.
It means electing a leader who has worked for a living, and knows the difference a progressive government can make in working people’s lives.
It means deciding the best-qualified person for the job deserves the promotion to party leader, lack of facial hair not withstanding.
It means electing Peggy Nash leader of the NDP because she is ready to be a strong leader of the opposition; and because — as Canadians are about to discover — she will look like a better choice as a prime minister than any recent occupant of that office.
On your preferential ballot make Peggy Nash your first choice, and you do yourself proud. If you remain committed to someone else, consider placing Peggy second, third, or even fourth. The ranking of your ballot preferences will matter to the final outcome.
Duncan Cameron is the president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.