The New Democratic Party is in the late stages of a long leadership campaign, which ends in Toronto on March 24. Few Canadians, though, seem to care. When Stéphane Dion won the leadership of the federal Liberals in 2006, he beat a field comprised of several senior Liberals who had nationwide reputations and name recognition.
Here are the candidates who received votes on the first ballot at the Liberal party’s leadership convention at Montreal’s Palais des congrès in 2006: Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Stéphane Dion, Gerard Kennedy, Ken Dryden, Scott Brison, Joe Volpe and Martha Hall Findlay.
Compare that list to the NDP’s current slate of leadership hopefuls: Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Romeo Saganash, Martin Singh and Brian Topp.
I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether the Dippers’ list stands up to that of the Liberals. I’ll say, however, that none of my friends and family that I quizzed could name more than three on the NDP list.
During the 2006 campaign, there was substantial buzz around the Grits’ contest. Blogs and the mainstream media debated regularly the merits and deficiencies of the contenders to replace Paul Martin. After all, the winner could very well have become our prime minister.
An Abacus Data poll in late January—about two months before the coming NDP convention—showed that 40 per cent of Canadians haven’t heard of any of the eight candidates in the NDP leadership race, and that a full 35 per cent of New Democrats could not recognize the candidates.
Thomas Mulcair (36 per cent) and Brian Topp (31 per cent) fared best with national name recognition, followed by Paul Dewar with 27 per cent and Peggy Nash with 23 per cent.
Do any of these sound like a prime minister in waiting?
And how many readers knew ahead of time that the NDP leadership hopefuls debated Sunday afternoon in Sudbury? I did not. There seemed very little pre- or post-event coverage. Moreover, I don’t believe the debate was televised (screenshot above was from the Halifax debate).
Frankly, I think I’m like a lot of Canadians—likely a majority—who see the Dippers as the official opposition in name only. The results of the 2011 election notwithstanding, we regard the Liberals as the real opposition and believe the next non-Conservative prime minister is more likely to come from that party.