Quebec's not making it easier for the NDP to pick a leader -

Quebec’s not making it easier for the NDP to pick a leader

If New Democrats chose a leader with roots in the province but residence outside it, they’d only be doing what they did in 2003


Oh, this poll is not helpful at all. At 26% in Quebec, the NDP would lose most of its MPs in that province.

(I know, I know: polls between elections do not predict the outcome of elections. Every number can shift wildly and will certainly do so before the next vote, unimaginably far in the future. And polls of disengaged voters about hypothetical choices may not measure much of anything. But try getting New Democrats to ignore the polls as they pick their next leader.)

The choice facing New Democrats is, roughly: Do they try to nail down their 2011 windfall in Quebec, and grow in other provinces — or do they try to find a “national (read: pan-Canadian) leader” and hope Quebecers will like that person?

The good news is that, if they’re super-lucky, they might be able to hold Quebec and grow outside. The bad news is, if they are only moderately unlucky, they may find it’s impossible to do either.

The candidate of “holding Quebec” — the only candidate of holding Quebec, as Quebec opinion-makers see it — is Thomas Mulcair. I have been surprised, and then amused, at the unanimity with which my friends in the Quebec chattering classes assume that only Mulcair would be an acceptable NDP leader for Quebec voters — and that, since he’s on offer, the selection of any other candidate is ipso facto an affront to Quebecers.

This is odd, because if New Democrats chose a leader with roots in the province but residence outside it, instead of a Quebec-born-and-bred candidate, they’d only be doing what they did in 2003, when they picked the Hudson-born Torontonian Jack Layton over Pierre Ducasse. So theoretically Brian Topp, born outside Montreal, would sort of do. But I’m really not feeling the Topp love from the Quebec journalists and politics-watchers I talk to.

So: pick Mulcair to hold what the NDP already has, and then pray he can be made to appear warm and cuddly, or at least persuasive, in those parts of the country where he’s barely known. Or pick a Topp or a Peggy Nash (very popular among Toronto New Dems) or someone else, and hope Quebec quickly gets over the latest Historic Affront.

Meanwhile, Harris-Decima suggests the NDP is fading fast in its biggest stronghold of support. We’ll hear it’s because the NDP hasn’t been fierce enough in denouncing a lot of Stephen Harper’s initiatives that seem, at best, tone-deaf where Quebec is concerned — unilingual auditor general, Royal Royal Queen Queen Queen wherever you look, the gun-registry stuff – but that doesn’t quite explain why the Liberals are rising as fast as the Bloc while the NDP falls. It makes more sense to say the NDP is simply deflating and listless voters don’t find any other party a uniquely persuasive alternative.

I don’t have any advice for New Democrats, or not yet anyway. I’m not sure they can hold those Quebec seats. I’m not sure Mulcair is the guy to do it if it can be done. I’m not sure picking a non-Quebecer will provide the traction outside Quebec to make up for any Quebec losses. Maybe what they really needed was Jack Layton and a weird storm of circumstance, and now they don’t have either. But I suspect their hitherto commendably cordial leadership campaign will be strained by the tension as they get closer to having to decide how to hold their gains, even as it starts to look like they’re letting those gains slip.


Quebec’s not making it easier for the NDP to pick a leader

  1. That’s assuming that Jack Layton was the biggest reason for the NDP surge in Quebec.

    • you don’t think the history of the NDP in Quebec…  winning only 1 by election before Jack became leader is sufficient evidence of that??

      I have no doubt that the NDP and Jack worked very hard,  and they now have a bedrock of support in Quebec.   But like any party that jumped just before the election….  That Bubble was entirely election and leader driven.  The bedrock is nowhere near that peak.  And it is unlikely to be repeated near term.

  2. I suppose it depends on whether NDP politics resonated in Quebec, or whether their support was due to the popularity and everyman appeal of Jack Layton.

    If the former then they can win if they emphasize their left-leaning credentials and push the Bloc and Libs out of that space.  If the latter then they’re toast unless they can find someone equally personable, which Mulcair is not.

    • I think they gained a liking for the NDP when Layton started pushing for Bill 101 applying to federal offices in Quebec and similar policies.  If they don’t get more of the same on a regular basis, I would expect the support to remain lower.  There’s probably also a segment that are willing to vote Liberal again without Iggy as the leader.

    • Trouble is if the Libs move to the left to buy Quebec votes they will not do well in the rest of Canada. They have already lost their support base in Ontario and there is not much for them in the West. So if they want to win government they are going to have to offer new and moderate policies or the people in the rest of Canada will continue to ignore them.
      Rae continues to carry the baggage and if Copps rigs the national council to allow Rae to run there will be dissension in the Liberal ranks and of course the Conservatives will dine out on Rae’s history.

  3. “…but that doesn’t quite explain why the Liberals are rising as fast as the Bloc while the NDP falls”
    I have a feeling Rae is going to do quite well in Quebec. The problem for him is the baggage…no i don’t mean his stint as premier in Ontario…i mean the liberal party he has on his back right now.
    If they try this primary idea it may be quite successful in Quebec if Rae takes a run at the leadership. The party can push many of the same policy options that make the ndp attractive. But how is the party to reinvent itself in Quebec with its twin legacy of adscam and Trudeauism?Still, it’ll be interesting to see how Rae does; he’s an extremely personable politician – crafty too.
    The country seems to have changed in some subtle way. I’m not sure anyone from any party can be guaranteed to be popular both inside and outside Quebec anymore – Jack might have pulled it off.
     Ironically the conservatives might have the best shot with their emphasis on hands off provincial jurisdiction thing going for them.  if it weren’t for SH, who i can’t see ever being in danger of becoming over-popular in Quebec.  

  4. “I have been surprised, and then amused, at the unanimity with which my friends in the Quebec chattering classes assume that only Mulcair would be an acceptable NDP leader for Quebec voters — and that, since he’s on offer, the selection of any other candidate is ipso facto an affront to Quebecers.”
    Considering that Quebec pundits didn’t see the reasonable accommodation kerfuffle coming or the Dumont surge or the Orange wave, one could be tempted to doubt their collective wisdom about the inner torments of Quebecers.

  5. The NDP are in a real pickle. As Wells says the only real Quebec candidate is Mulcair. That is probably true. However, Mulcair has a real nationalist streak in him wnating to give Quebec more powers etc.

    I suspect if he is chosen leader he will not be able to hold all the seats they currenly have in the rest of Canada.

    Peggy Nash would be a good choice for the Conservatives. She is the old style NDPer who loves government cradle to grave and she will spend our money as fast as she could to find the utopian society that the Dippers dream of. Unfortunatley Europe has tried it and it failed badly.

    • “she would spend our money as fast as she could”

      How would we be able to tell the difference between that and the current government?

      • At least the government spends the money across the country. Nash would simply give it to her union buddies.

  6. I enjoy Que politics – constant churn of parties, can’t rest on laurels. There’s creative destruction for political parties in Quebec that I like. I am typical ignorant anglo but my impression is that Que politics in great flux at moment and Que voters don’t know where they be in a few yrs. Legault’s new party is going to influence politics in a way that we can’t reliably predict. 

    As long as NDP continue to pander to Que if they don’t nominate Mulcair, will Quebecers vote NDP?

    I have 2 NDP friends who support Dewar and Nash and they say Topp is disaster while Mulcair is many people’s second choice outside of Que. Topp not clubbable, he lacks nunchi – my friend compared him to oompa loompa after meeting Topp and she’s not normally a snarky person – and would not have a chance if he didn’t have backing of NDP panjandrums. 

    NDP success in Que has queered the pitch because dippers not use to considering Quebec issues in their debates and calculations. 

    “The Mandate of Heaven postulates that heaven would bless the authority of a just ruler, as defined by the Five Confucian Relationships, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate, leading to the overthrow of that ruler. The Mandate of Heaven would then transfer to those who would rule best. The mere fact of a leader having been overthrown is itself indication that he has lost the Mandate of Heaven.”

  7. Don’t forget the former staff of R&D are solidly behind Dewar.

    Hey, wait a second, you speak french, have lived there for a while in the past, hail from la Sarne…

  8. Perhaps the real solution for Quebec to become a viable entity in Canada would be to vote Conservative.
    Urinating in the soup does not endear them to the rest of the country. It’s time to Grow Up!

    • Your third sentence argues with your first.

      • Maybe they would if Harper wasn’t intent on taking the country back to the future. I imagine Quebecers want no part of that. Just goes to show where the limits of Harper’s decentralized Canada lie. Starts to look more and more like deux nations policy to me…Harper has absolutely nothing original to offer this country. Problem is i’m not sure anyone else has either at the moment.

    • We are actually grown up… we know what’s good for both Canada and Quebec and we know it’s not Harper. Enough said.

      • Since you’re stupid enough to vote for perenial opposition parties, I believe you don’t seriously care what goes on with the rest of the country.

        Try voting for a governing party and Quebec might just receive some respect.

        • Quebec already voted for the governing party – they were just 4 years ahead of their time.

  9. Wow, I can’t beleive some of you know everything would dismiss Romeo Saganash as not Quebec.  I mean the Cree only go back tens of thousands of years on the land mass we call Quebec.  What kind of heritage is that?

  10. This geographical fraternity is insulting to Canadians. Many of us simply wish to see the best candidate selected. Many of us, outside Quebec, think Mulcair is that candidate.

  11. Why NDP? Why Quebec? Quebec likes the gun registry (so much
    they are taking the fight to the courts to keep Harper from shredding the data
    that was bought and paid for with public funds). Quebec likes Kyoto, a legal
    agreement that Harper has had Canada pulled out of, shaming the whole country.
    Quebec likes national day care so much it didn’t wait for the feds to get
    around to it, it put it in place itself and has offered 5$ and then 7$ a day
    daycare now for years. Quebec funds invitro treatments, and offers extra long
    maternity/paternity leaves, because it believes in families. Quebec is progressive
    on gay rights and will defend gay marriage, despite its Catholic history,
    because it believes strongly in Human Rights and equality. Quebec will defend
    women’s right to choose, again despite its not too distant Catholic past,
    because it believes in equality. Quebec believes strongly in second chances and
    rehabilitation, especially for youth offenders, and has the best success rate
    to prove it works. Quebec does not believe in putting people away in prison on
    minimum mandatory sentences at great public expense for having shared a joint
    (considered to be “distribution” under new crime bill). Quebec believes in the
    importance of access to post secondary education with its free colleges and
    lowest university tuition in the country.

    I could go on, but you get the picture, Quebec supports the
    NDP because the NDP supports Quebecers values, talks to them about those values
    and defends them with passion. Quebec culture is a culture of care and
    compassion, like Canada used to be. Quebec is Canada’s conscience, and so is
    the NDP. This Country needs both if it is going to be worth living in 10, 20,
    30yrs from now.

    If Quebecers voted for the NDP instead of the Bloc in the
    last election it was because they were afraid of losing the Canada they can
    identify with. Seeing Harper destroy this country woke them up to the fact that
    there was something really worth saving. Do you think Canada is worth saving?
    Then stop being bigoted toward Quebec and learn from your French brothers and
    sisters about building a better society for all of us.

  12. Canada does not need any more Prime Ministers from quebec.

  13. Any well-prepared observer will note that moods seem to sweep teh Quebec scene in history.   Vastly loyal Liberals for decades flooded the Bouchard – Mulroney ranks  only to desert to the new Bouchard Bloc. Under Layton the Bloc flooded to the NDP.  I see no reason why the NDP hold will stay, particularly with the declining polls. One will have to check the political weather in three years and see if the Quebec NDP floods to some new passion. Nobody can look accurately to the future but I wouldn’t be surprised to some new alignment under some new charismatic leader.

  14. Dear NDP – FORGET IT! remember the Socreds of Real Caouette, the Expos, the Nordique – all out of fashion!!