We had to check after Monday's media wallow over the death of the new Moses, Jack Layton, aka the man who accomplished nothing in his federal career apart from propping up the corpse of the Liberal Party until it literally fell to pieces.
Let's see, he was leader of the fourth largest party in Parliament, never spent a day in government, and waited until the Liberals finally imploded to pick up the pieces and lead a gaggle of Quebec students and separatists to Ottawa under the NDP banner. Then he expired, leaving the party in the hands of a 68-year-old woman with the English language skills of Stephane Dion and who, when elected, was a card-carrying separatist party member and financial donor. Way to go, New Moses.
But while the mainstream media commentators rushed to buy sackcloth and ashes before prostrating themselves at Layton's cold dead feet, they studiously avoided the only question anyone wanted answered--- who is going to lead the NDP, now? Or, as all those new-born biblical scholars would say, who will be the new Joshua ?
A passel of potential candidates has bubbled to the surface and no one is happier to see them than the pundits of the governing Conservative party who are dancing a jig at the prospects.
For starters, the Conservatives will walk into Parliament in September to face two leaderless Opposition parties. And it only gets better from there.
Unless NDP apostate Bob Rae performs a true miracle by returning to his roots, seizing the leadership of the federal NDP and then uniting the NDP and Liberals into a single party of the left, the future for both looks mighty dim and foreboding.
The Liberals have a tradition of alternating between Anglophone and Francophone leaders. Wouldn't you know it, it's the turn of a French-speaking leader. With the seminal need to rebuild their strength in Quebec, a leader from that province becomes almost inevitable.
The NDP, meanwhile, finds itself with more than half its members in Parliament from Quebec. To choose a leader from anywhere other than Quebec would be a humiliation.
So in the best-case scenario for the Conservatives, the Opposition parties would go from no leaders to both being led by someone from Quebec. And, apart from the amusement of watching them tear each other to pieces in that province come next election, there's the knowledge that the rest of Canada would vote for Muammar Gaddafi before voting for a Quebecer.
Which takes us back to the NDP leadership contest.
Who is in the running?
<> Topping any list is undoubtedly Gary Doer, former Premier of Manitoba and currently the Canadian ambassador to the United States. Like Jack Layton, he was the political leader you would most want to have a beer with. Unlike Jack Layton, Doer was a winner, in his own province at least. As Premier he hugged the middle of the road, keeping his foot firmly on the throat of his left wing, while deftly knocking aside the ineffectual Opposition leaders in his home province. But he headed for the nearest Exit door when he began feeling the heat from a political scandal involving NDP cheating in the 1999 election that brought him to power. He speaks French like Dion spoke English, and at 63 years old, he will be collecting an Old Age pension by the time the next federal election rolls around; hardly the hopey-changey image of the future the NDP wants to present. No chance.
<> Another Manitoban, Bill Blaikie, came in second to Jack Layton at the last leadership convention. A distant second. He retired from federal politics, took a job at the University of Winnipeg, left that to sit in the Manitoba legislature as an NDP MLA, and announced this year he was retiring and not running in the October provincial election. He may be only 60 but looks ten years older than Gary Doer. Yesterday's man.
<> Thomas Mulcair was Layton's deputy leader. He's from Quebec (Outrement). At 57 he's not sixty. He's a lawyer (ptui). After American special forces killed Osama Bin Laden, Mulcair famously questioned whether the U.S.had photos of Bin Laden's dead body. What was he getting at? Who knows. The NDP shut him up right quick and hid him in a closet where nobody could question him further. Rabid anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories are in the blood of Dippers, so that's not going to hurt him. What will, though, is the strain of anti-Israel sentiment that flows just as strongly through NDP circles.
Mulcair has been called "the most aggressive pro-Israeli MP in the NDP caucus". That's anathema to the left wing of the left wing party. They will be oppose him vigourously if he runs. Does the NDP want a battle over Israel and the inevitable accusations of anti-semitism televised on national networks? Or will they pull an Ignatieff and "select" Mulcair in the back rooms and announce his leadership to the cheering masses? Hot potato.
<> The far left is promoting lesbian Libby Davies, the 58-year-old MP for Vancouver East, B.C. She's the politically correct co-deputy leader with Thomas Mulcair. She doesn't speak French, so her chance of becoming leader is nil. She does speak Wacko, though. She presented a petition to Parliament endorsing 911 Truthers who insist the terror attacks on New York were an inside job by the U.S. government. If this is the best female the NDP can throw up, the party is in deep, deep trouble.
Luckily, for them, she's not.
<> A name being bandied about by insiders is Megan Leslie (Halifax, N.S.) She lists her profession as "community legal worker." Only 38 she's the NDP's health critic, replacing Judy Wasylycia-Leis. She's been attracting a lot of attention including being named "Best Rookie" MP in 2009 by Maclean's magazine, one of 2010's top MPs by columnist Davik Akin, and among Ottawa's Up and Comers in 2011 by Postmedia.
"But, somewhere among all those MPs may be future leaders and even prime ministers - or, at the very least, people who will change government policy in meaningful ways."
"They may be backbenchers, opposition critics or simply sitting on committees that tackle high-profile issues. They may sponsor a private member's bill that generates controversy or just be solid, hardworking MPs who command respect from all parties and, in doing so, wield influence."
"Based on their performance or record to date, and on the issues likely to dominate Parliament in 2011, Postmedia News has assembled a roundup of MPs to watch."
She's not above a little self-promotion and you'll find the latter story on her website
<> Is the NDP ready to be led by somebody whose formative years were the Eighties?
One name sure to be at the top of the list of contenders is Paul Dewar, MP for Ottawa Centre. He's currently the Foreign Affairs critic. At 48, he's about the right age for a leader looking to revitalize the party. He used to be a teacher, but became a union rep and is better known as a "labour and social activist." (Don't any of these people have real jobs?) He speaks French. His drawback, he's got a penis and a wife. A female wife. Politically incorrect.
<> That leaves one frontrunner. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your likely new leader of the NDP.
Peggy A. Nash.
Riding: Parkdale--High Park, Ontario.
Age, 60 (which means she won't stay long).
Gender: just right.
Party cred: She's a union activist and negotiator. First with the Canadian Airline Employees Association, then with Canadian Auto Workers. She's got the union vote sewn up.
She's won accolades for her work promoting women in politics.
She's won awards from the Sierra Club of Canada for her environmental work.
She's been an election monitor in South Africa and two elections in Ukraine.
She's married. To a man, which will go over well with non-Dippers.