Brian Topp knows the words

After a series of testimonials from young and old, Shirley Douglas, something like the Queen Mother in this place, stood from her wheelchair to speak. The room went quiet. Cell phones were procured to snap pictures. “As New Democrats we can win. With Brian Topp we will win,” she said. “We will win for a more equal Canada. And don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.”

After a short film on the life and times and friends of Mr. Topp, the man himself emerged to chants of his conveniently chantable first name. He pumped his fist and smiled and took his place behind the lectern at the end of the stage. The speech he delivered was probably something like one of the speeches he might’ve written for Jack Layton, with a few nods to the student of international politics that Mr. Topp is. It was about everything New Democrats are against and everything Mr. Topp would like them to do. He chided the other side and appealed to history. It was not rip-roaring. He has settled on a fist pump that seems to fit, but he does not yet know how to emote for the cameras. He is not yet able to make it seem like standing on stage is as normal for him as lounging on the couch is for the rest of us. He is neither tall, nor broad-shouldered. But he knows the words and as he proceeded with a roll call of aspirations it was his mob around the stage that carried the room, calling out “YES!” to every shout out to social justice and arts funding.

He promised, in workmanlike fashion, to “get the job done.” And then he smiled that slightly bashful smile and greeted his family and hugged Ed Broadbent.

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