Regionalism and the NDP Leadership Race: Operation ‘God-I-Hope-Andrea-Horwath-Endorses-Me’

Well, we have a full slate for the NDP leadership race.

With Peggy Nash jumping in the deep end, and Robert Chisholm wading in slowly, and will-she-or-won’t-she candidate Nikki Ashton finally throwing her proverbial hat in the ring, we have a real race on our hands.

If we turn and look at our NDP leadership race map, we can see how the endorsement race breaks down:

  • Thomas Mulcair 33
  • Brian Topp 8
  • Peggy Nash 3
  • Romeo Saganash 2
  • Nikki Ashton 2
  • Nathan Cullen
  • Paul Dewar
  • Martin Singh

So let’s break this race down, region-by-region. Note that I’m including this month’s updated province’s membership numbers in brackets. Thanks, Pundits’ Guide!

British Columbia (30,000)

Solidly in Brian Topp’s column.

With the BC party brass coming out this week in support of Brian Topp, it looks like he pretty much has a lock on the rank-and-file of the province. Even Nathan Cullen, with no endorsements to speak of, doesn’t seem to have the native son status that he was perhaps counting on.

Though Peggy Nash picked up and interesting endorsement out of the gate from Randall Garrison. The newly-elected MP, who is also openly gay, represents a good chunk of Victoria and the surrounding area. Even so, she isn’t exactly a threat to Topp, who picked up the insanely important endorsements of Libby Davies and Jean Crowder, as well as newbies Kennedy Stewart (representing the Vancouver beach-head that Bill Silksay and Svend Robinson occupied) and Jasbit Sandhu. That’s all Topp needs, really. The leadership of the B.C. New Democrats hasn’t exactly endorsed Topp, but effectively the provincial wing is all aboard the good ship Brian. Nash might take a chunk of votes from outside Vancouver, but there’s little doubt of the province as a whole.

The Praries (30,000)

Advantage: Softly Nikki Ashton (maybe.)

Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta could well play spoilers in this race. They have a good share of the NDP membership and represent a generally more conservative base that might not break so clearly for Brian Topp. They also might eye Mulcair with a suspicious eye, so I wouldn’t count on him doing to well in the flatlands.

I think Nikki Ashton got to get into this race knowing that she will do very well among rural voters in the Prairies. She’s received good support from the Manitoba and Saskatchewan provincial parties, which will carry a lot of clout – and money. Her ability to build outside of these three provinces may be limited (though her appeal to youth, herself being quite young, shouldn’t be totally discounted) but Ashton might not need anything else if she can clean up in her home turf.

Dewar shouldn’t be totally discounted. He has picked up some important organizers and MLAs from Manitoba, where he apparently has roots. His brand of no-frills, old-fashioned social democracy might also be attractive to the long-time members from the Prairies.

Considering that Dewar and Cullen have been in the house longer than the other candidates, they might also benefit from the long-time, purist NDP members who are more inclined to close ranks on the deluge of new members.

Interesting kingmakers could be Pat Martin and Linda Duncan. While they are not exactly the be-all-and-end-all of how the Western votes will break, we might see Martin go with Cullen because of his support for joint nomination meetings with the Liberals and Greens. Duncan, on the other hand, could well endorse Topp (but he may have trouble recruiting some of the rural Albertan members who are generally more conservative.)

The Prairies are also host to rather large aboriginal reserves. Ashton has ties in this communities, but she may be fighting an unlikely opponent in Romeo Saganash. Let’s not forget that Saganash held an important post in the Grand Council of Crees. While the body doesn’t actually represent the Cree communities in the prairies, it may nevertheless be an important factor in grabbing votes in those reserves.

So, I do think you’ll see Ashton take the lion’s share of the votes. It won’t be enough to make her leader, naturally, but it could mean that if she endorses someone before the second or third ballot, the game’s all over.

Ontario (30,000)

Total shitshow. Three-way race between Topp, Nash and Dewar

People will look to Ontario to decide the race, considering it does have the largest block of members. No doubt, receiving sizable blocks of votes (or not) will make or break a candidate. But Ontario will not pick the winner, per se, but it will certainly decide losers. Ashton, Saganash Cullen, Mulcair and Chisholm probably can’t hope for much of a bump from Ontario. Unless one of them gets a hail mary pass (in the form of divine intervention or an endorsement from Olivia Chow, both equally unlikely) those candidates are sunk.

The only ones who can home to get more than a fifth of the Ontario vote are Topp, Nash and Dewar.

But, bizarrely (and some may think me daft for mentioning this) we could see Martin Singh play a spoiler role here. Given his connections with the Sikh community, he may get very small pockets of support. Nevermind that he’s bankrolled his own campaign to the tune of $35,000. Assuming Singh limps to the finish line and drops off on the first ballot, he could just have enough support to make something of one of the ‘also-rans.’ (see: Alexa McDonough becoming leader.)

Mulcair can’t be totally brushed off. He does have four Ontario endorsements – two in Toronto, one in the South and one in the North. Those will carry some weight. Will it drain from the other candidates? Sure. Will it make him leader? No.

Nash is going to be really strong in Toronto. She’s picked up support from two Toronto councilors and one MLA, and I’m sure that won’t be the end of them. If Andrea Horwath endorses Nash, which she may do, you could see this race flipped on its head.

But Topp is also going to be strong in Toronto, squeezing out Nash’s support. He picked up a lot of money there in September. That being said, he has no base. Having never sat as an MP, he has nowhere to branch out from. That could make breaking through Nash’s foothold more difficult.

And then there’s Dewar, who is sort of an unknown force here. He has support in Ottawa, no doubt, but he also got undercut by Topp when ‘the anointed one’ picked up an endorsement from Ed Broadbent, Dewar’s predecessor in the seat (and former rival for the nomination.)

So unless one of the three gets a big endorsement or really takes hold of the province, you likely won’t see any clear winner out of Ontario.

Quebec (5,000)

Mulcair’s to lose.

To be perfectly clear: Quebec members will not decide who becomes the next NDP leader. What we will see, however, is folks in the RoE trying to vote to appease Quebec. Anyone concerned with the future of the party is naturally not going to vote for someone that will jeopardize the party’s gains in the province. This is where the race gets tricky – if Mulcair can convince the rest of Canada that he is the only option to keep Quebec happy, he may well siphon votes away from Brian Topp in the rest of the country.

In Quebec itself, Topp will do very well. He has the support of the party brass there. Romeo Saganash will definitely pick up some votes, especially in the north. Dewar might be a factor in Gatineau, which is just across the riving from his riding (although Gatineau’s MP is a Topper.)

But, in the end, Mulcair will never register enough members to make himself a factor. If he doesn’t even take a sizeable majority of the Quebec membership, it’ll be nothing short of a humiliation.

Nash’s recently endorsement from long-time organizer, candidate and one-time leadership contender Pierre Ducasse means something. What that means, I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it’s pretty little.

Atlantic Canada. (<1,000)

Robert Chisholm takes the lot.

Sort of a non-factor, really. While you have two pretty strong party structures in the Newfoundland NDP and the Nova Scotia NDP (who currently have a majority government) there simply isn’t the population there to decide the leader.

A few months ago, I might have said Darrell Dexter and the Bluenosers could build up a membership base big enough to really influence the race, but with less a thousand members, I just don’t know how much more they can build on top of that.

That being said, the Nova Scotians are going to swing for hometown boy Robert Chisholm. He led the Nova Scotia party back in the day, and the sitting MLAs seem to be unanimously supporting him.

Peggy Nash’s endorsement from Alexa McDonough will be the only thing that could challenge his spot.

New Brunswick and PEI are non-factors in this race. It should be noted that Mulcair picked up an endorsement from New Brunswick leader Dominic Cardy. That’s almost laughably insignificant, and a potential pitfall for Mulcair, as Cardy is involved with NDProgress, which makes him a Third Way-er – a dirty name in the NDP. His Twitter page features the UK Labour Party’s red rose (of sort-of-socialism-ish-ness.)

But when we turn to Newfoundland, we could see an interesting upset. These membership numbers I’m listing are from September 1st, which means that they might be neglecting some of the memberships picked up from the Newfoundland election, where the NDP had a historic “breakthrough” (of sorts.) With the party leadership endorsing Peggy Nash, we could see the symbolically important image of Nash getting pan-Canadian support.

Crunching Numbers

So what does this mean for the candidates?

Well, assuming that all the constant stay exactly as such (e.g. nobody drops out, there are no earth-shattering endorsements) I can see Topp pulling it out with a fairly small minority of the votes. I can’t see any candidate getting over 40% on the first ballot. After running through the numbers a bit, I’d say that Topp will pull out around 30%, with the others mostly hovering around 10-20%.

See, the problem is that there has to be one national frontrunner. That mantle is now held by the free-floating Topp (who isn’t anchored to any inherently regional interests.) Nash could steal that from him. Mulcair is very unlikely to.

The point is, that if things stay as they are, Nash will fail to pick up much in the prairies or BC, and therefore doesn’t have a shot in hell. Mulcair might be a good second or third choice, but his Quebec base isn’t going to count for much. Out east, Chisholm is going to work his ass off to build inroads out West. Meanwhile, Cullen, Saganash and Dewar are likely going to finish as relative non-factors. Their regional support has been undercut by the other candidates.

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Categories: NDP Leadership Race, Politics

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