I'm supporting Dewar
I hate leadership contests. And I really hate this one because it reminds me over and over again of the painful events of last summer.
It reminds me of Jack’s bittersweet victory. Of a leader who had really just come into his own. Of a leader who had managed to seize Canadians’ attention with a strong and positive vision of what Canada could be, once it was wrestled away from Harper’s dark dreams.
But all that remains unfinished. And the NDP is in a leadership race.
If there’s one thing I want to see happen in this race, it’s that we elect a leader capable of finishing Jack’s project.
What does that mean?
To me it means a leader whose political essence mirrors Jack’s: A leader who is as much the happy warrior as Jack was.
I think that person is Paul Dewar. Here's why.
I first met Jack when I was running for city council in 1990. He was passing through town and, as I had a strong interest in housing, Bruce Yorke invited me to a meeting he had set up out at the airport.
I don’t remember much about the meeting except this: Jack had hundreds of ideas about both policy and strategy. He had energy and vision. He was practical – he knew the system and worked it. But above all he connected with me. By the end of the meeting I wanted to be part of his army.
Early on Jack had what it takes to be a great leader. That's what led me to support Jack when he ran to lead the NDP.
So what about the current prospects – all of whom I respect, several of whom I’ve worked with?
Thomas Mulcair – he started the breakthrough in Quebec. He’s experienced and smart, and I agree with many of his ideas on where our party has to go. But I don’t believe he has the party experience to take us there.
Peggy Nash – I like most everything about her. But I don’t know where she stands.
Nathan Cullen – Charismatic and personable, but I can’t get past the ill-thought-out plan for working with the Liberals. And I’m a believer in uniting the left.
Brian Topp – Smart and a good strategist. Still, as a bit of a back room guy myself, I know that a good strategist is not necessarily a good politician (and vice versa). I need Brian to get elected first and show me he can connect with folks like Jack did. So far I’m not close to convinced.
Nicki Ashton – Very impressive. Call me in ten years. Okay, maybe five.
Paul Dewar – Yes, his French needs work. But you can learn French - in fact his French has improved dramatically over the last few months. What can’t be ‘learned’ is the ability to connect with people. That’s what leadership is all about. And Paul has that talent.
Maybe it runs in the Dewar family but when you meet Paul you want to spend time with him. Just like that first time I met Jack.
On top of that critical skill, Paul Dewar is experienced and successful. He knows parliament and has been a strong Foreign Affairs critic.
He knows campaigning. He succeeded Ed Broadbent as Ottawa Centre’s MP in 2006 and has increased his margin each successive election – robocalls or not. And his policy bundle is great – relevant and forward-looking – and very sellable to progressive Canadians, regardless of party.
So I agree with Quebec MP Helene Laverdière, the giant killer who defeated Gilles Duceppe: Paul Dewar has that je ne sais quoi touch with the common person that the NDP needs to take us forward – in Quebec, in Ontario, on both coasts and everywhere in between.
That’s why Paul Dewar is my choice.