This race promises to be very emotional, with Mulcair already musing about taking the NDP closer to the mainstream, ala Gary Doer, contrasted with Topp who sounds very much in line with what we are used to hearing from the federal NDP. As well, when is the last time you heard a federal NDP heavyweight preach the merits of smaller government, Mulcair is bringing provincial NDP evolution (Dexter, Doer, Calvert) to Ottawa, and it will be fascinating to see how stout the resistance, even though the faithful have embraced and celebrated the centrist move in provinces, tribal considerations trumping true political leanings. I suspect Dewar will also offer a philosophical reset, so we will see a true battle for the heart and soul of the NDP party.
I’m continually amazed by Brian Topp and the organization he has built in such sort order. It is no stretch to say he is the establishment candidate and others are quickly positioning themselves as the insurgency challenging the old world order. Dewar has placed himself as a grassroots up candidacy and Mulcair is throwing barbs that he is the unwanted irritant upsetting the pre-ordained coronation. I see plenty of blowback potential in this race, Topp does look every bit the backroom boy with powerful friends, poised to steamroll the field, a posture which tends to demand rank and file defiance. The question will be, is the abrasive Mulcair that messenger, does he enjoy that grassroots appeal to counter, or will his reforming ideas turn off those he need to take on the Topp juggernaut? Perhaps this is where Paul Dewar fits into the puzzle, time will tell.
This race is going to get nasty, make no mistake. Anybody who has watched Mulcair knows that “heated” is a given, I expect continual fireworks between his camp and Topp, the likes of which the NDP haven’t seen. In fact, this race looks very Liberalesque in many respects, particularly the role of the vanguard in dictating. I’m curious to see how this notion of the “little guy” party confronts serious Topp down considerations, particularly when the perceived best challenger isn’t exactly a natural fit.
This NDP leadership race will be conducted under a microscope, the big leagues demand attention never seen before, and this focus will only heighten the intrigue, the potential divisions and fault lines. I intend to follow this race very closely as well, largely putting aside my own party leanings to comment as a detached observer as I see it. Given we are still months away from picking a leader, this race has all the hallmarks of classic political struggle, all the elements are there for a fascinating affair.