Diet Orange Crush no longer

NDP has strong leadership options that will help party

Niki Ashton (photo by Jonathan Allard / Wikimedia Commons)

One of my favourite memories of Tom Mulcair is when he went ziplining with Rick Mercer. He talked about his childhood, was reasonably a little scared, and also had fun flinging himself down a little wire. I think you can tell a lot about a politician by how they behave on The Rick Mercer Report.

When Tom Mulcair was elected leader of the NDP, he was coming in to fill the biggest shoes the party had ever seen—those of Jack Layton’s, one of the best politicians the country has ever seen. It certainly wasn’t an easy job, but Mulcair took it on anyway. Unfortunately, the 2015 election did not result in a second orange crush for the NDP, and critics and pundits largely blamed Mulcair and an unfocused party platform.

The Liberals are a big tent party—they’ll proclaim this to anyone who comes within hearing distance. While the validity of this statement can be disputed, their 2015 election platform did have a little something in it for a lot of different voters. The NDP is not a big tent party, and it shouldn’t be. They have a specific, special role to play in Canadian politics, which is to keep the political scene at least a little bit left-leaning, which keeps the other parties in check. They can do this whether they’re the governing party, the Opposition, or the third party in the House of Commons.

The NDP will need to focus their party platform a lot better than they did in the last election, and emphasize certain hidden gems that distinguish them as the choice for left-leaning Canadians.

The party is lucky, in that they have many strong leaders who could effectively lead them into the next election. Megan Leslie has been touted as the ideal candidate, and she is, but she’s also said she’s not running. Other options include Niki Ashton, who ran in the 2011 race. She’s served as the NDP Post-Secondary and Youth critic, as the Status of Women critic, and as the Aboriginal Affairs critic. She’s a strong MP who has advocated for a number of key issues, including fairer mining practices in Brazil.

Or maybe Charlie Angus, who is currently the NDP’s critic for Indigenous and Northern Affairs. He’s outspoken, promotes important issues like mental health, and used to be in a punk rock band (and he still plays for charity functions on occasion).

Or perhaps Peter Julian, who before entering politics was a community activist who fought to prevent a big-box store from coming to his area, as well as serving as the executive director for the Council of Canadians and advocating for greater services and support for people with disabilities. The Georgia Straight called him “one of the region’s hardest working politicians,” which is really what you need in a leader.

It’s too early to say which individual person the NDP needs to lead them, but the good news is that they have options. There are NDP members who are passionate, trustworthy, hardworking and seeking justice, and any of them would contribute to a strong leadership race.

Unfortunately, some of the NDP’s star candidates have announced they have no plans to run in a leadership race. But if we know one thing about Canadian politics, it’s that plans can change.