Are the NDP flying high on Layton’s legacy?

Commenting on the Jack Layton funeral event in our August 28 blog, the question was asked if Canada’s New Democratic Party can fly to greater heights on Jack Layton’s image.  The article ended with the statement, “Ask that question again in October.”  We now know the answer is “No.”

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath hardly needs to share any of the credit with a ghost for her party’s increase of seven seats in the recent provincial election. The provincial NDP, taking just one seat from the Liberals in Toronto, hardly swept the city Jack Layton claimed as his base.  She did better in Northern Ontario because of McGuinty ignoring the area.

In the meantime, a field of eight has emerged to do battle for Layton’s leadership of the federal NDP.  Three are front runners.  They are MP Thomas Mulcair from Montreal, Brian Topp, the party president, and MP Peggy Nash from Toronto. They are, in turn, the maverick, the choice of the greybeards, and the woman candidate.  None of the three holds a candle to Jack Layton.

And yet, the one to watch is Peggy Nash.  She is old school.  She is the real socialist of the three.  She has also proven herself in making a comeback in the 2011 election to win over Liberal star Gerard Kennedy to regain her Toronto-High Park seat in the Commons.  Her Canadian Auto Workers background will work for her in an election in which every member of the party has a vote.

If it were a delegated convention, an apparatchik such as Brian Topp would have an advantage with his support by the power brokers of the party.  His union, ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), cannot add much to his numbers in an all-party vote and it is also hard to decipher what his lack a seat in parliament will mean to the rank and file.

Thomas Mulcair, the Montreal candidate, is an enigma.  As a former Liberal Cabinet Minister in Quebec, he has a long way to go to be known and accepted by the NDP outside of his province.  The sparseness of party membership in that province makes his task almost insurmountable.

As one Quebec-based journalist mused, the media has no way of guessing how the all-party voting will go.  She is right.  And neither can the party be expected to know.

There will be no Layton legacy but it will still be an interesting race for the NDP leadership.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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