Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Saganash Scores An Early Point

Romeo Saganash has the right attitude regarding low party membership numbers in Quebec.
In an interview with APTN National News Monday, Saganash dismissed concerns raised by high-profile Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair who said candidates from Quebec were at a disadvantage in the leadership race because the NDP lacked a provincial wing there.
Mulcair, seen by many as a top NDP candidate, told reporters Monday that he was holding off declaring his intentions to run because he believed the numbers were against him.

Saganash admitted that the newness of the NDP in Quebec and its lack of a provincial base was a “challenge,” but it wasn’t enough to make him back off his leadership bid.
“It is definitely a challenge and every challenge brings an opportunity,” said Saganash. “We have our work cut out for us. Definitely it is not a handicap in my view, rather an opportunity.”

Any Quebec based candidate that wins the leadership race will likely have broad appeal with the general electorate within the province but they will need to have broad appeal with the general electorate outside of the province for the New Democrats to have a shot at forming the next government. And if they need to rely on Quebec candidates to win the leadership race because they can't win over NDP members in the rest of Canada then they most assuredly are not going to win over the general electorate.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Game On

So we have a race; sort of. Two, count em, two candidates for the leadership of the New Democratic Party have officially thrown their ushankas into the ring. The two candidates are NDP President Brian Topp and NDP MP for the Quebec riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, Romeo Saganash. Of course, neither announced candidate are officially candidates yet. Both must collect the required number of signatures and...Zzzzz. Sorry, I dozed off. If you're interested in the boring technical details of the leadership race, knock yourself out.

Now this early in the race there isn't much to say other than this early in the race there isn't much to say. If you compare the race to a 100 metre dash, all that's taken place so far is two runners have taken to the field and are just beginning to limber up. Of course this hasn't stopped the liberal and conservative media from attempting to craft all sorts of narratives dreamed up by partisan pundits on twitter; none of whom, by the way, are actually dippers.

One of the few things we can do this early in the race is to look at some of the candidate's strengths, weaknesses and questions about them that need to be answered. More will be added as we get to know these two candidates and any others who enter the race.

Romeo Saganash
Strengths: --He's a Cree Indian. Saganash could capitalize on his ancestry in much the same way Obama did.

Weaknesses: --He's a Cree Indian. Unfortunately racism still lingers in Canada. While the overt racists wouldn't likely vote NDP, a campaign of vilification against aboriginals could dissuade some fence sitters.
--He's extremely unknown. Voters outside of Quebec have most likely never even heard his name mentioned. Even those who know of him--like me for instance--probably know very little about him.

Questions: --How strong is his English? If his grasp of the English language is no better than Stephane Dion's is Romeo doesn't have a shot. Fortunately for Saganash, this is one question he can easily clear up. See update below.

Brian Topp
Strengths: --He's well positioned to capitalize on Jack Layton's legacy.
--He knows the organization he helped build. This would give him a big advantage in maintaining party unity.
--Brian is not afraid to tackle the controversial issues head on. We've already seen this in the early days as he's taken a clear stance on the Clarity Act and the addition of more seats in the House of Commons.

Weaknesses: --He's never run for public office.
--By all accounts, Topp appears to be a cold fish. While this hasn't held Harper back, the contrast between the affable Layton and cool Topp will stand out like a sore thumb.

Questions: --Can he win in an election? Brian will have to demonstrate before the leadership convention in March that he can actually get elected by winning the Toronto-Danforth by-election or another seat vacated by an NDP MP. If he's not an MP by then it will hurt his chances.

For more on the NDP leadership race follow: Accidental Deliberations and Buckdog.

Update: Via Greg in the comments is footage of Saganash giving a speech in English (at about the 8 minute mark) at the NDP convention a couple months ago. His English is more than acceptable.