|NDP leadership candidate Guy Caron|
Since then, I've done a lot of thinking, including watching yesterday's NDP Leadership Showcase online from Hamilton. After a great deal of reflection, I have some confessions to make:
1) I'm coming out of the closet as a card-carrying New Democrat. Yes, this follows having joined the Conservative Party of Canada earlier this year and participating in their leadership race. I remain a pragmatic progressive who cares deeply about the shape of our Canadian democracy. For me, joining these parties including the Liberals in the past is the equivalent of voting in open primaries in the U.S. More Canadians should be engaged in this way, as far as I'm concerned. I, of course, quit the Conservatives after the regressive Andrew Scheer won that close contest.
2) Up until last week, I was most attracted to leadership candidates Charlie Angus (for his passion, authenticity, and clarity) and Jagmeet Singh (for his passion, charisma and similar authenticity, as well as the fact that his victory would be an important breakthrough for people of colour in Canada.) I had come to think poorly of Niki Ashton whose ambitions to lead a renewed "movement" of socialists didn't seem to ring true to me. I also didn't think much of Guy Caron, who seemed like a nice enough guy but hadn't yet reached me emotionally or intellectually in this campaign.
3) As of yesterday, I've done a complete switch. Guy Caron's stellar showcase presentation yesterday impressed me greatly, including the heartwarming introduction by his wife. Suddenly, Caron's very well-thought out plans on basic income, proportional representation and many other issues are resonating with me. Yesterday, he even clarified that he opposes the Quebec government's proposed plan to tell religious minorities what to wear when they provide or receive public services; he simply respects the jurisdiction of the Quebec legislature, which frankly so do I and anyone else who respects Canadian federalism. Caron has also been showing his charming and humorous side of late. He's clearly a likeable guy, much more likeable than Tom Mulcair could ever be. He's no recent recruit to the NDP cause in Quebec like some other pseudo-separatists; he's been fighting for the NDP in that province for decades and his federalist credentials are clear. Add to this Caron's ability to speak both official languages fluently, he offers a truly credible option to not only hold on to the NDP's base in Quebec but also to build on it (and deny the Bloc Quebecois a comeback anytime soon). None of the other candidates can offer that, so he's suddenly skyrocketed from being my last choice to my first.
4) I still think highly of Jagmeet Singh and I think he'd be a fine leader who will easily engage with young people across most of English Canada. He may even be able to similarly connect with Quebecers, I suspect, although that will be a struggle at first as his French language skills, as we saw yesterday in his showcase speech, remain merely adequate.
5) Niki Ashton has been passionate in this race and her drive to renew the NDP as a movement is well-timed after it lost those roots under Tom Mulcair. Her speech yesterday was solid, showcasing her decent French skills. Furthermore, it's now clear to me that her youth and her clarity on the issues puts her in a great position to connect with millenials.
6) Charlie Angus is still a great man and leader. I've been inspired by his passion and clarity in this race. However, when it comes to his weak French skills, or his ability to connect with the next generation of voters, I suddenly have major doubts. In him, I saw someone a bit charming and older in the same vein as Bernie Sanders. However, Angus has yet to show the kind of passion needed to inspire young people the way Sanders did. While the other three candidates might quite naturally or easily connect either to young people or to Quebecers, Angus will have a huge struggle on his hands. In him, I see flashbacks of Howard Hampton, another earnest and well-meaning NDP leader from Northern Ontario who ultimately failed to have much of an impact.
Thus, to my shock, I will soon fill out my online ballot in the NDP leadership race in order: 1) Caron, 2) Singh, 3) Ashton, and 4) Angus.
Yes I've changed my tune big time since last week. I felt it important to clarify my new position.
A stronger NDP will keep the Liberals on their toes and force them to protect their left flank. For me, I want a viable NDP that challenges for government, not just third-party status. While the Liberals have done some good on the progressive front, if they become complacent about their progressive support, that'll spell trouble for many of the issues we progressives care about and want real action on. And if the NDP can become strong again, should the Liberals falter, we'll have a decent and clear alternative to whom we can turn.