NDP needs a leader – right away

Martin Singh

Martin Singh

Next week-end, Canada’s New Democratic Party will be electing a new leader. The House of Commons will, by the same token, gain a permanent official opposition leader.

It will sound the close of Nycole Turmel’s temporary assignment. For many members of the party this is a page they will happily turn. Since her surprising nomination by Jack Layton, we can only say that the party has had a hard time performing. Her own performances during Question Period around the important issues facing the country didn’t enable the party to follow into Jack Layton’s footsteps. This is especially true for Quebec, where a recent poll carried out by Leger Marketing indicates that the Bloc Quebecois, decimated by the Orange Wave, is now on top of the NDP.

This poll can only be of profit to candidate Thomas Mulcair, as we enter the final round in the leadership race. Another bit of good news for him came, last week, in the shape of candidate Martin Singh’s support. The Nova Scotia businessman is said to have recruited some 10 000 members. Nothing guaranties that they will vote for Mulcair, but the odds are pretty good.

In fact, let’s hope for Mulcair’s team that they didn’t vote prior to the broadcast of the protégé’s support. Because you see, the voting process in this leadership race has a quirky side to it: some members have already cast their vote. And this was done before the candidates’ last debates.

In fact, the NDP’s chosen modus operandi marries traditions with modern technologies. And this affects the procedures in the election of a new leader. Indeed, the process has several phases. Four in all.

Two are by mail or on-line in advance polling. In both these voting methods, members must choose preferentially, indicating first choice, second choice, and so on.
This shows how little impact debates really have on the choice by members. They usually have set their mind eons before the start of debates and rarely switch camp along the road.

Thomas Mulcair

Thomas Mulcair

Moreover, some members will be voting directly, during the leadership conference. Unlike those who have already voted, they will be able to cast their vote according to the first rounds’ findings and subsequent rounds if need be. No need to go to Toronto to do so. The party has organized a direct, on-line voting system for each round.

It will be interesting to read the statistics and find out how many people chose advance polling. These people will not have the advantage of finding out the first round’s results before casting their second choice. The advantage is a strategic one that can strongly influence the final vote, according to back-stage goings-on that animate leadership congresses.

The end of the leadership congress by the end of next week-end will mean a new departure for the official opposition in Ottawa. Its new leader will have to quickly set the tone in order to take his place in public debates, a place poorly held by an interim leader and occulted by the solid performance of another interim leader, Bob Rae, of Canada’s Liberal Party.

Translation Monique Kroeger