Saturday, February 25, 2012

Leadership 2012 Roundup

Assorted news from the past few days in the NDP leadership race.

- While Niki Ashton had already introduced her justice plan, she re-emphasized her commitment to decriminalizing marijuana and treating addictions as illnesses rather than prosecutable offences in the wake of support for the principle from provincial Attorneys General and municipal figures.

- Paul Dewar added several prominent First Nations figures who had previously supported Romeo Saganash to his list of supporters, making for a extra boost in the second tier of candidates (particularly if other Saganash supporters follow suit).

- Thomas Mulcair unveiled a lengthy list of Saskatchewan endorsers, with two key takeaways: his support from past government such as former Finance Minister Harry Van Mulligen serves to counter Brian Topp's claim to support among the province's longtime NDP governments, while endorsements from the likes of Lon Borgerson and Lawrence Joseph may resonate more with the province's more activist members.

Meanwhile, Mulcair suggested in an interview with Xtra that Canada should reconsider its membership in the Commonwealth if it can't make progress on human rights including queer rights:
How would you promote queer rights abroad?

Let’s look at this year’s Commonwealth meeting. There are a lot of Commonwealth members that have an abysmal record on “queer rights,” as you call them, that still consider it a crime. There has to come a point where in your foreign policy that type of abject refusal to recognize human rights becomes an impediment to closer relationships.

So there’s a difference between a working arrangement with other countries, diplomatic relations with other countries, but when you get into a closer relationship, as with the Commonwealth, either the Commonwealth is going to start standing up and showing leadership on these issues or countries like Canada that respect these rights and understand them are going to have to send a clear signal that they’re not going to be part of that club any more.

You would actually have Canada withdraw from the Commonwealth?

The Canadian government has already sent a signal that the last meeting was totally unacceptable, that there’s been no progress. You can do that once. You can do that twice. But if you’re still dealing with several countries that are showing absolute failure to respect rights and are in fact treating it as criminal behaviour, yes, of course, this is a question of whether or not you would associate with these people in the closest possible way. That’s what the Commonwealth is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about shared history, shared institutions and shared values. If there’s a total breakdown on that on such an identifying issue as this one, then at some point you have to send a clear signal that if it continues like that, that you’re willing to break that relationship. That has to be clear.
At the same time, Derrick O'Keefe noted that at least some donors to Thomas Mulcair have extensive track records supporting other parties - including Gerry Schwartz, who went out of his way to stop the NDP from emerging as the leading alternative for government in the 1980s. And Dr. Dawg for one was not pleased with what that source of funding might say about Mulcair - though in fairness similar questions have been raised about big-money donors to Brian Topp.

- Peggy Nash answered Aaron Wherry's questions, including this on what to do and avoid in looking to overtake the Cons:
Q: What does this party have to do to beat Stephen Harper, practically speaking, in the next election?

A: We have to show, first of all, that we have a real alternative to the Conservatives. That the Conservatives continually act in ways that undermine the creation of good Canadian jobs. They’ve stood back while so many of our resources have been sold out to foreign companies. They haven’t respected our communities. So we have to present a strong alternative. We also have to organize. There’s nothing that replaces the hard work of building our riding associations, building our community support, having good candidates that are out knocking on doors early. And the Conservatives are very good fundraisers. We have to be as good in raising funds in order to be able to mount the kind of campaign that it takes to win across such a vast country. I think our road ahead is pretty clear. We have to present an alternative. We have to build our base. And we have to have the resources to be able to win.

Q: Do you take any lessons from how the Conservatives have won?

A: Well, I take a cautionary tale. I see how they have been divisive for partisan purposes. I think that’s reckless leadership because we are a federation and a federation means that people have to work together. You have to respect differences, but you have to work together. And using, exploiting differences for partisan purposes, I don’t think represents good leadership. I also am concerned that the Conservatives have really stretched the limits of campaign, in terms of fundraising we saw them cross the line and now there are serious concerns about these robocalls. We don’t know, we’re not at the bottom of that yet, but there are real concerns about it. So there are definitely things that the Conservatives have done that we will not do.
- Brian Topp was profiled by Joanna Smith (with a particular focus on his time as an aide in Roy Romanow's Saskatchewan NDP government), while also pitching himself as a left-wing option to Meagan Fitzpatrick:
The rich and profitable don’t need any more of the government's help and it's time for tax fairness, Topp has said throughout his campaign.

"I don't think there's any question that New Democrats strongly support these proposals and I've seen that all across the country," said Topp. "And we did some research to reassure ourselves that that's true."

He said there would be three main themes of a Brian Topp government if he were to win the leadership and next election: undoing the damage done by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to the public finances; acting on climate change; and closing the inequality gap in Canada.
Topp also released a foreign policy focusing on fair trade agreements and avoiding any race to the bottom in labour and environmental standards.

- Finally, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East released an evaluation of the leadership candidates (PDF).

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