NDP hopeful Paul Dewar shares his vision for a progressive future... and improving his French

The NDP leadership race comes to a head this weekend. Many party members have already cast their ballots - in advance polls, they rank candidates in order of preference. The Vancouver Observer spoke with Ottawa MP Paul Dewar, a candidate with grassroots progressive cred and the endorsement of respected MP Charlie Angus. Some have dismissed his campaign because of his weak French - but Dewar says his plan is the one for Quebecers, and Canada. His own polling puts him in a close third place, and he could have a decisive impact on Saturday.

NDP leadership candidate Paul Dewar at CBC Vancouver. Photo by David P. Ball

THE VANCOUVER OBSERVER: As you hit the home stretch leading up to the Saturday vote, how are you feeling?

PAUL DEWAR: Today is the 173rd day of my campaign and I feel energized. We’re into the home stretch and I’m taking a great deal of energy and momentum from all the volunteers and organizers on my campaign. At the end of the day, it’s the people on my team that keep me loose and motivated.

VO: What will the last few days look like?
 
PD: The last few days are all about connecting with as members NDP members as possible and getting out the vote. For our campaign, that means our phone banks are buzzing non-stop and our voice and email blasts to the NDP membership are flying out the door. For me, it the last few days involve countless phone calls, last minute meetings and events, and preparation for my convention speech.

VO: How will you prepare yourself for the convention vote?

PD: Convention is a big production for our team. We have the 20-minute television leadership showcase to prepare, a 50-person volunteer organizing team getting ready, materials to produce (signs, buttons, and bandanas), and of course I have a big speech to give. I’ve spent more than 6 months campaigning for leader, and the convention is the moment where we hope to pull it all together.

VO: What is the funniest or most bizarre campaign moment so far?

PD: It has to do with billeting. Throughout the leadership race my campaign has had me billeting with local supporters during my stops. And considering that I’ve been to more than 125 communities, that’s meant a lot of billeting. One of my more memorable moments was when I arrived in a town in South-Western Ontario for an evening event. I was told to look out for the local riding Vice President who was a supporter, and my host for the night. It turned out the local riding VP was 16 years old (our leaders start early!) and I was told I’d be staying with him and his parents. The best part is that I’m pretty sure his whole family are now supporters.
 
VO: I'd like to ask about your vision for Quebec. Given many commentators' dismissal of your French, are there other considerations Quebecers are seeking that you uniquely offer?
 
PD: I think it’s important to note that I speak French, I understand French, and it’s getting better every day. I’ve heard some say that they have concerns about my French and my ability to connect with Quebecers. But it’s important to note that I speak French, and my capacity to speak to francophones across Canada will only get better. Yet, my capacity to listen to them is already strong and what I hear them saying is that they want to be part of a Canada that reflects their values.

Like me, Quebecers believe in greater social and economic equality, personal liberty, and environmental justice. They believe in a cosmopolitan and confident nation with joie de vivre and deep compassion in equal measure. It’s because of this vision that I've received the endorsement from many Quebecers, including from three of our Quebec MPs.

On Saturday, the remaining voters will vote in run-off voting rounds throughout the day online. In this system, even second-tier campaigns can get a last-minute boost based on voters' second choices, so Saturday is sure to be exhilarating - and possibly even surprising for the New Democrats.

Stay tuned for to The Vancouver Observer for more from the NDP leadership hopefuls.

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