An open letter regarding the straight, white dudes running to lead the NDP

Dear Canada,

Hey, listen, I don’t mean to interrupt the coronation and/or dogfight between Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp (henceforth referred to as Mul-Topp) – but do you mind if we start talking about some of the other potential candidates?

Given that we Canadians do love to toot the horn of multiculturalism and equality whenever possible, maybe we could even talk about someone other than the “straight-Christian-white-guy” candidates.

(Sorry, Nathan Cullen and Paul Dewar: being lanky or curly-haired doesn’t exempt you from that category.)

Saganash getting the bum’s rush

Romeo Saganash is an eloquent speaker, relatively well-known in Quebec and amongst First Nations communities, and his resume is as packed as the parliamentary press gallery when Roger Cuzner starts rapping.

He’s also the first Aboriginal leadership candidate for a major party. But who wants to report on that? Truth be told, most people would rather be writing about the Brian Topp fan club.

But it’s about time that indigenous issues became an election topic. According to the UN, our Aboriginal population ranks 24 spots behind the rest of Canada on the Human Development Index.

Despite that worrying statistic, the Harper government fought tooth and nail to avoid signing the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Even more cynically, one of Harper’s priorities upon taking office in 2006 was to have the RCMP spy on First Nations groups.

So either we give serious consideration to the very credible Aboriginal candidate, or we force all the other party leaders to spend their vacation in Little Saskatchewan, Manitoba. Take your pick, folks.

The rest of the field

Martin Singh is a pharmacist and business owner from Nova Scotia who converted to Sikhism 15 years ago. If he were to become leader (and later, I assume, MP) he would be the firstnon-Judeo-Christian to become a major party leader, and it would be a recognition to the massive Sikh and Punjabi community growing in Canada.

Mind you, Singh only managed to pull in about 15 per cent of the vote in a Halifax municipal election. Electability might be an issue.

Peggy Nash is almost certainly going to join the race. The MP-turned-defeated-MP-turned-MP-again has served as president of the NDP, so she’s a familiar face to delegates. She is also, if it has not become abundantly clear, a woman. As is Nikki Ashton, the up-and-coming 29-year-old rural Manitoba MP.

Ashton said she would announce her plans after the Manitoba election. It’s been a week and we’ve heard nothing. Nash, on the other hand, will face stiff competition in her Toronto stomping ground, as Topp needs a seat in parliament to increase his profile – the only vacant seat is Jack’s riding of Toronto-Danforth.

Then there are always some backbenchers that we (the speculative media) could throw in the race for the sake of diversity.

The NDP has three charming upstarts (two from Quebec, one from British Colombia) who are likeable, credible and openly gay. Philip Toone, Dany Morin and Randall Garrison are all in the shadow cabinet (Morin and Garrison on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual issues, Toone on Fisheries and Oceans.)

We could have a real discussion about queer issues and fish! Unfortunately, neither of the three has expressed any interest in running.

Where’s the beef?

There’s no doubt that this race is one to replace Jack.

That’s precisely why it’s befuddling that Mul-Topp seem more interested in talking about themselves, each other, or their endorsement-du-jour. Where’s the beef? I’d settle for a napkin with some hastily-scribbled policy ideas on it any day.

But please, I can’t last five more months reading puns on Brian Topp’s last name.


Originally posted on OpenFile Montreal.

Categories: NDP Leadership Race


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