NDP Leader race crowded, on the right

Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister who takes pride in his role in early ‘free trade’ negotiations, brings a decidedly pro-capitalist, anti-Quebec self-determination perspective to the New Democratic Party leadership race. When Mulcair announced his candidacy, he had the backing of 15 MPs, soon likely 30, but few supporters outside of the ranks of strongly pro-federalist Quebecers.

British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen, another leadership contender, advocates a “non-compete agreement” with the Liberal and Green parties. While the stated aim is to unite anti-Conservative votes in the next federal election, such a move, welcomed by the pro-Liberal media as a step towards merger, would destroy the NDP as a party independent of the business class. It would drown generations of working class social gains.

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar promises that as NDP leader he would give city governments more say – even a seat at federal-provincial ministers’ meetings. Dewar, until recently the NDP foreign affairs critic in Parliament, defended the bombing of Libya by Canadian Forces. He supports the Canada-U.N. occupation of Haiti, opposed the Canadian Boat to Gaza, and rejects boycott, sanctions and divestment aimed at the Zionist apartheid state.

Northern Quebec MP Romeo Saganash, a Cree lawyer and regional leader, has yet to detail his policy positions since joining the leadership race in September. Nova Scotia MP Robert Chisholm will soon toss his hat into the ring. Fellow Nova Scotian Martin Singh, a pharmacist and businessman, extols the virtues of entrepreneurship.

On October 28, Toronto MP and former Canadian Auto Workers Union negotiator Peggy Nash declared her candidacy. Her platform, in the words of Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom, “is straight-up NDP orthodoxy”; “address social inequality… and boost corporate taxes to pay for it.” The only positive point of differentiation is Nash’s praise for the Occupy movement.

That brings us to the never-elected-to-public-office Brian Topp — touted as the front-runner. He enjoys the backing of the Steelworkers’ Union and party icons Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow. Lately, Topp called for higher taxes on corporate profits and big income earners.

But Topp is a very unlikely candidate of the left. He rescued the party establishment from ann embarrassing defeat at the federal NDP convention in Vancouver in June when he moved to refer back to the executive its proposal to delete the word “socialist” from the party constitution preamble. Post-convention, the preamble disappeared from the federal party web site – a devious move typical of the backroom politics associated with Topp and company.

Sadly, leftist B.C. MPs Libby Davies and Peter Julian opted out of the race. Bizarrely, Davies later endorsed Topp, the man who as federal campaign director presided over the party’s steady shift to the right.

The dearth of meaningful choices for NDP Leader poses a serious challenge to the NDP and to the anti-capitalist left: either raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to run a socialist candidate for Leader, or find other ways to fight for a Workers’ Agenda in the only mass, labour-based political party in North America.

The global “Occupy”movement, and a whole generation of concerned environmentalists, plus millions of victims of war and capitalist economic crisis cry out for a socialist alternative. It must be generated inside the mainstream of the workers’ movement, where it matters most.

> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.