As a true, born-and-raised Liberal, I won't be "endorsing" any NDP leadership hopeful in this weekends little convention in Toronto... While the NDP are progressives, they - like the Conservatives - have a bit too much of the fringe in their midst - the far left in this case. While the far left is far more palatable than the far right, they are still an extreme of the type that pushes people like us to moderate political movements - like the LPC.
I guess what NDP leader is best for the LPC is best defined by what said leader "would do to" the LPC. We all know that Stephen Harper wished to destroy every last vestige of the LPC, like some megalomaniacal quasi-dictator (and the best thing we can do to thwart him is to "JUST BE"). The NDP of recent times seems to have been walking in "lock-step" with their right wing cousins (makes me feel like Poland sometimes). While they don't appear to be as angry and aggressive as the Cons (some have even called us "cousins" recently), they seem to want the unpalatable, hyper-partisan, anti-democratic political farce that takes place in the US on a regular basis...
Which NDP relative-unknown will be best for the LPC, then?
Well, let's just consider the top 3 contenders:
Thomas Mulcair: Tommy is a bit of an enigma... (to say the least). He has po'd Quebec Liberals as he leaped to the Federal NDP, while he became the darling of his new party by finally "cracking" a seat for the Orange crowd a couple elections ago. Many in the NDP, however, do not trust Mulcair. "Why is he in the NDP? He almost appears to be a centrist." He doesn't appear to be supported by much of the traditional labor core of the NDP... but may have a bit of a machine from Quebec - along with some South Asian delegates delivered en masse.
A Mulcair victory could mean a very crowded group of Quebec-based federal party leaders - if the LPC follows in the unwritten tradition of selecting a Quebecer in 2013. He could split the federalist support in Quebec, between Liberals and NDP. The Cons should be a non-factor by then - but may act as spoilers in some seats.
Mulcair's image outside of Quebec would not hold him in good stead with other Dippers... but then, many political leaders are not necessarily liked by their party's apparatchiks. Would he be able to get organized labor to support him into a battle if he is perceived as no different than the LPC? If organized Labor stays home, who will pull votes in Ontario and the ROC? Federal employees - and particularly recently-laid-off ones - would flock to the LPC. Many Provincial health unions could be persuaded to support Liberal initiatives in the healthcare area.
Would Mulcair pose a threat to the LPC? Sure - particularly if the MSM paints him as a "liberal"... and no different than LPC Leader "X". It could further split the center of the political spectrum, and really cause issues in a lot of our ridings. Of course, with declining voter turnout (what, with things like voter suppression going on, and all...), he'd need big labor to turn out in numbers to "pull" that new support.
What is likely with Mulcair? A more RABID NDP attack on Harper, and a wearing down of the government by a very aggressive charge. A polarizing of their caucus - deep divides forming - and perhaps a loss of supporters, who would likely just stay home (like many conservatives during the latter Mulroney/Campbell years).
Brian Topp. Topp was considered the front-runner when this show got on the road many months ago. A big part of that was being the first one to throw in his hat. Relatively unknown outside of his party, he is well-respected within the party - and has a lot of caucus support. A former backroom hero, he isn't a retail politician, and really shouldn't be posing as one. While Harper too was a "policy wonk", Topp winning could mean real trouble for a party trying to define itself, and "get over the top" into government. While he could deliver the party machine, he would likely not excite voters... His party would spend all it's time having to carry Topp - a stark contrast to Layton carrying the NDP for so many years.
What would a Topp leadership mean for the Liberals? Well... lets just say Liberals should be praying for Topp to be left standing on Saturday night. Backroom maneuvering - and all the caucus support - would certainly be instrumental in making that happen. The NDP is not ready to have to carry another leader through a campaign... After years of Layton carrying them. Under Topp, the NDP would shrink back to a party of unions and the far left...
Nathan Cullen. Mr. "Dark Horse". He certainly has the "special interest group support" with Avaaz.org and "LeadNow" supporting him. He provides a clear alternative to the rest of the NDP gang - as far as presenting a formula for "winning" goes - and it doesn't just revolve around holding Quebec (which won't happen). Cullen seems to have the most diverse appeal. He also is the candidate most open to "cooperating" with the LPC -ergo the one most dedicated to defeating Harper.
How would Cullen affect the LPC? Well, if elected leader, he could return us to (at least partial) power sooner than we are planning on... As part of a potential coalition government. I'm not so sure, however, that most Liberals would be ready for that (even IF we want it). Not sure we'd want to do that before properly rebuilding our party. This blogger would certainly support "cooperation" to defeat Harper and his group of AngerCons... However, this blogger would have also worked with progressive conservatives - like Joe Clark - to make a better Canada too.
The LPC could help Cullen defeat the Cons, but in playing "second-fiddle" could also forever be related to 3rd party status. Cullen would, however, bring progressive politics back to the forefront of the Canadian public discussion. An LPC-NDP coalition would also be able to enact a lot of laws that could prevent a Harper from happening again... or at least work hard to ensure the social safety net and caring nation Canadians had grown to respect and take pride in.
We need to remember that politics works in cycles, and Harper will soon be 10 long years into his cycle. Voters tire... and 2015 will see some signs of this. Harper is not likely to strengthen his majority... and may drop into minority status. His infatuation with the LPC (sort of like a wounded dictator trying hard to defeat communists in his last days) keeps him from seeing his real enemy - the NDP - which has recently tied his party in the polls.
Expect the NDP, and a resurgent LPC (with a truly "new" leader), to take the battle to the Cons over the next 3 years. Majority governments have ways to make opposition parties look good. We are there to oppose - not just to "work together" for Canadians. There will be a lot of "opposing" going on in the next little while. Harper's small majority is clearly not ready for this. And the NDP think they've arrived. They will start focusing more on Harper - to our benefit.
The best NDP leader - for the LPC - will be that leader which takes the battle to the Cons in full relentless force. This will also allow the LPC to regroup, find our leader, and carry on.