The eight candidates bidding to replace the late Jack Layton as the federal leader of the New Democratic Party debated their visions for the future of their party in a Toronto school hall on Wednesday. As expected, there was the obligatory Prime Minister Stephen Harper bashing, and much blue-skying over expensive big-government programs.
Not a single “big-idea” policy was heard, and certainly not a single way to cut cost of government that is now at a record high. Play safe and play to the crowd was the strategy. Here’s a sampling.
British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen said that eight months of Stephen Harper “looks like a bad dream.” Really? Where has he been? Canada has been viewed all over the Western world as doing pretty well in the past year or so. That’s reality, if not the wishful thinking of a few progressives who crave political power.
From the front-runner, French citizen and MP from Montreal Thomas Mulcair, we heard that he intends to “to bring the [political] centre to us,” in answer to the question of whether he would move the party to the centre if he became leader. Obviously he’d have to move the Canadian centre quite a bit to the left, but will Canadians move with him? I doubt it.
Brian Topp, the former party president and another front-runner told us that Toronto was “Layton’s town,” and threw in an insult to the “town’s” mayor, calling him Stephen Harper’s “pet mayor.” Cute, but not much statesmanship here—Topp’s strictly a backroom guy.
Ottawa MP Paul Dewar evoked Layton’s name and his second form of cancer. “We have to take better care of each other,” he added. Is he implying that some imagined shortcoming in our current health care system led to Layton’s death? Get a grip, man.
Toronto MP Peggy Nash talked about the failure of governments to invest in cities. “As leader, I can unite progressives right across this country so that we can defeat the agenda of Stephen Harper,” she said. Right. Sure she can. Nice lady, but a light-weight candidate with a less than even chance of winning the leadership.
The race seems to be among Mulcair, Topp, Dewar and maybe Nash, with Mulcair likely to win in March, the way I see it.
Future debates will be held in Halifax on Jan. 29, followed by others every two weeks ending with the March convention.