If Thomas Mulcair doesn't become boss of the NDP this weekend the nation's pundits sure will have wasted a lot of time. For the last couple of days, Canada's editorial pages have basically been an all-Mulcair-all-the-time extravaganza, as writers and reporters furiously scramble to prove they hold brilliant insights into this mysterious whiskered gentleman who might possibly be within striking distance of becoming prime minister someday (maybe).
As I've mentioned before, the fact that the NDP is using an almost impenetrably obtuse electoral system to choose its new leader -- a multi-tiered abomination that makes polls and predictions virtually impossible -- has done very little to dissuade journalists from assuming they still know who's gonna win, even if there's not a ton of hard evidence to support their hunches.
Thus, good old Mulcair has been fortunate enough to enjoy a fairly brazen media bias in his favour, with stories often granting him wonderfully circular-logic titles like "presumed front-runner" that make reference to his "perceived lead" -- which I imagine is going over very well with the six perceived losers.
In typical media-world fashion, Mr. Mulcair's warm perception seems to largely spring from his edgy and colorful personality, which is fun to talk and write about (this week's Toronto Star podcast features a side-debate as to whether he's best described as "cheerful" or "chirpy"), and the fact that his political career fits nicely into the press' existing narrative about the NDP's post-2011 existential dilemma (soon poised to celebrate it's one-year anniversary!)
That grand existential dilemma, we may recall, is actually composed of two smaller sub-dilemmas, and darn it if Muclair doesn't embody them both! Writing for the National Post, Kelly McParland frets about sub-dilemma number one: This idea that the post-2011 NDP is way too dependent upon Quebec, and Mulcair, being a Quebecer and all, is pretty much the wrong guy at the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean, just imagine if there was to be another separation referendum, says Kelly. Whose side would he be on!?
Sub-dilemma number two is the larger crisis of just how left-wing the NDP should be, with Mulcair presumed to be the candidate for folks who favour the answer "not very." Unfortunately, the press tends to have a very difficult time measuring these sorts of things, so instead of a substantial policy analysis of how Muclair differs from his rivals, we're usually just given windy metaphors about how brave Mulcair "wants to broaden the NDP tent," while unrepentant Marxists like Brian Topp cling to "traditional NDP values." Or how about the time Mulcair said NDP speeches used too much "boilerplate?" That was code for "I want to privatize sunshine," at least according to Ed Broadbent.
Other times, you just have to take the media's word. The good lefties on the Toronto Star editorial board, for instance, simply declare that "there is nothing in what Mulcair has said or proposed as policy" that supports these monstrous smears of centrism, while Michael Den Tandt, also citing nothing, calls him "the New Democrat best placed to pull a 'Tony Blair,' and shift the party further to the centre." Though to be fair, he did admit to "reading between the lines" a bit.
In perhaps the most useful editorial of this whole race, Neil Reynolds at the Globe and Mail argues that all this vagueness is inevitable when you consider that "socialism," as it was historically defined, doesn't really exist anymore, so it's very difficult to develop any sort of metre stick for measuring who's the best at it. Much of modern political life is already a fairly left-wing game of taxing, regulating, and social engineering, he says, so "eight decades later, the NDP can find little left to champion other than the relentless pursuit of incremental increases in government spending." Which is also something the Conservatives seem to be fond of. Whoops!
Amid all this analysis, the one aspect of Mr. Mulcair no one seems to have much of an an opinion on is his charming facial hair. This, of course, runs contrary to all sorts of historical trends -- Canadians have not willingly elected a bearded prime minister since 1874 -- and violates one of the most sacred rules of modern political image-making. Just a few months ago, in fact, a major study co-produced by scholars at our own University of Lethbridge found beard-wearers to be profoundly unattractive to the ladies -- a demographic the NDP can't really afford to jettison.
Should Thomas Mulcair lose the big race on Saturday, Monday's editorial pages will doubtlessly be filled with all manner of convoluted post-mortems as the punditocracy struggles to find the reason their golden boy's party turned against him. Considering what's been written so far, blaming the beard seems as good an explanation as any.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NDP LEADERSHIP VOTE
Thousands of New Democrats are convening in Toronto this weekend, and tens of thousands more are expected to participate online, to pick Canada's next Leader of the Official Opposition. The leadership race that was triggered by Jack Layton's death in August has been long - seven months - and seven people are left standing. The winning candidate will be elected in a way the NDP has never used before. (AP) With files from CBC
More than 130,000 New Democrats are eligible to choose between Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Martin Singh and Brian Topp. (Romeo Saganash and Robert Chisholm dropped out earlier in the competition.) This is the party's first truly one-member, one-vote convention. Gone are the days when unions had special pull at NDP conventions. This time, their votes are not given greater weight; each vote by every member counts equally. Events could also unfold in a very different fashion than the last time the NDP elected a leader. In 2003, Layton won on the first ballot, which meant the drama seen at other leadership conventions -- with one camp crossing over to another or where multiple rounds of voting have ensued -- didn't play out. It's possible a winner could be declared after one round of voting on Saturday -- but if not, then New Democrats could be in for a far more interesting day. So, how do they vote? (Thinkstock)
All registered party members were mailed voting packages that included a personal identification number that must be used to cast a ballot. Advance voting began on March 1. Members can vote online or by mail using a preferential ballot where they rank their choices. The mail-in ballots must be received by March 22 and advance online voting ends on Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET sharp. All of the results from the advance voting are kept locked up, digitally, by the voting company that was hired for the convention. Only a handful of people have access to those results. The NDP will know how many people voted in advance and are expected to release that tally on Friday. (AP)
The two-day convention opens with first-round voting opening Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET, after the candidates have presented their showcases and delivered their final pitches. Members who did not take part in the advance voting can cast a ballot in each round beginning on Friday night, with members voting for a single candidate each time. There will be 175 voting terminals set up the convention centre in downtown Toronto, but members can also vote online from anywhere in the country. From the comfort of their home, or while they're out for a walk enjoying their weekend, members can use their computer or smartphone to log on with their PIN and cast their votes throughout the convention. On Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET, the combined results from the advanced voting and the first round will be announced. If one candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote, a winner will be declared -- if not, a second ballot will be prepared. The candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the remaining candidates will have 30 minutes to decide if they want to voluntarily drop off the ballot. The rounds of voting will continue until one candidate passes the 50 per cent mark. There will be about 90 minutes between rounds for voters to cast their ballots. (AP)
The party will be keeping members who are not at the convention centre in the loop via email, letting them know who is on each ballot and when the rounds are set to begin. Candidates in the meantime will be hard at work trying to get out the vote. They are setting up war rooms at the convention centre where their teams will be working the phones and their email lists to maintain and grow their support throughout the day. Members' first choice from the advanced ballot will be applied as long as that candidate is still on the ballot at the convention. When and if that person is dropped, their second choice and subsequent choices are counted. When New Democrats will learn who their new leader is depends on how many rounds are required -- it could all be over early Saturday, or it could stretch on all day. The NDP is well aware, however, that Canadians' attention spans may wane the closer it gets to the time for the nation's other pastime -- the puck drop for Saturday night's NHL games. (Alamy)
NDP HOPEFULS GO 1 ON 1 WITH HUFFPOST
In the lead up the the party's leadership convention in Toronto on March 23 - 24, HuffPost Ottawa's Bureau Chief Althia Raj sat down 1 on 1 with the candidates vying to replace the late Jack Layton. (CP)
NDP Leadership hopeful Thomas Mulcair goes 1 on 1 with HuffPost.
NDP Leadership hopeful Peggy Nash goes 1 on 1 with HuffPost.
NDP Leadership hopeful Nathan Cullen goes 1 on 1 with HuffPost.
NDP Leadership hopeful Brian Topp goes 1 on 1 with HuffPost.
NDP Leadership hopeful Paul Dewar goes 1 on 1 with HuffPost.
NDP Leadership hopeful Niki Ashton goes 1 on 1 with HuffPost.
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