Last week I got an invitation from Pat Atkinson to meet NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp at Amigo’s Cantina last night. I have always been fascinated by NDP leadership races, partly because they make absolutely no sense to me and I never know what is going to happen on the convention floor. (yeah I just admitted that I watch leadership conventions for a hobby)
Since Topp was speaking to a partisan NDP crowd (I was on the only non-New Democrat there) I won’t go into the details but here are some observations.
- Topp can give a good speech to a small group of people. I don’t know if he will be electrifying in a convention hall or if he can do it in the House of Commons but I was impressed by his speech last night. He was humble while articulated why he wants to become both NDP leader and Prime Minister of Canada.
- I expected him to know his policy but I was impressed by how quickly and clearly he articulated it. He was sharp in the Q & A. I didn’t ask him any questions as I am not a card carrying NDP and the questions I would have asked him would have probably upset some people there and would have put him in an awkward position. It wasn’t the place or time.
- Topp classily distances himself from Layton and was open in giving permission to look at other leadership candidates. He pointed out that he was not Jack’s heir apparent and that Jack wanted others to run for leadership as well.
- Topp reminded me a lot of both Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow. If you are an NDP leadership candidate, this is a good thing.
- I know it’s early but there wasn’t any campaign material left by him and I find that his website is quite devoid of content and compelling reasons to vote for him. While I found him last night to have a compelling story and a pretty good vision of the country, his website doesn’t communicate any of that.
- I wonder if he ever wakes up and looks at a selection of orange-ish ties and realizes, “I’ll be wearing a tie with orange in it for the rest of my life.” For me, that would be enough to discourage me from ever running for NDP leader.
- In light of this post by Wendy, I will point out that it was not a Sunday, I don’t think Topp is a Baptist, and there was not a single inappropriate joke told which means my grandfather could vote for him.
- Unlike my previous attempts to chill out with a party leader, this one went really well. Pat Atkinson had a nice crowd out and it was nice to chat with Nettie Wiebe for a couple of minutes.
In the end he has a really, really tough job ahead of him. He spoke of forming government but even holding on to the seats the NDP have in Quebec is going to be tough without functioning constituency organizations and has less then 1700 members in Quebec. While the road ahead is tough in Quebec, the NDP has stalled in it’s traditional heartland of the prairies. Many blame electoral boundaries but the NDP message does not resonate in rural Saskatchewan, Alberta, or Manitoba like it used to. Topp will have to change that if he hopes on growing the federal party out west.
Will he become Prime Minister? Too early to tell and a lot can change over the next three years but more than any other NDP candidate on the horizon, I think he gives them their best shot. It will be interesting to watch.