Home News Montrealers hopeful for NDP in the midst of leadership race

Montrealers hopeful for NDP in the midst of leadership race

by The Concordian October 18, 2011

The death this past summer of NDP leader Jack Layton, whose force of character drove the party’s record success during the last federal election, has left many questioning how his loss will impact the NDP’s popularity.

“It’s going to have a big impact,” said Dylan Watson, a Vancouver native currently working in Montreal. “He was a very personable character and was very warm and friendly.”

Watson went on to say he thinks the current leadership campaign will create a power struggle within the party, resulting in a loss of public support.

Sylvia Poulin, an editor with a Montreal publishing house, thinks people need to give the NDP more time before coming to any conclusions. “I don’t think it’s going to change much right away. I think they’ll [Quebecers] give them a chance, because there wasn’t just Jack Layton in the party.”

A recent Nanos Research poll, completed for the Globe and Mail and CTV, suggests Poulin’s assessment may in fact be correct.

The poll, conducted between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, shows a 4.1 point drop in Canada-wide NDP support, from 33.1 per cent to 29 per cent. An earlier poll, taken shortly after Layton’s death, saw a 6.3 per cent spike in NDP popularity between August and September 2011, from 26.8 per cent to 33.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, Quebec remains the largest NDP stronghold with 48.9 per cent support in August.

Poulin also added that she feels the NDP’s recent surge of popularity is “a flash in a pan.”

“It’s my opinion that the party will lose its popularity with the loss of Layton, but I also think we may be surprised,” she said.

The NDP leadership race officially kicked off on Sept. 15, with an election scheduled for March 24. There are presently five registered candidates for the NDP leadership race: Paul Dewar, Thomas Mulcair, Romeo Saganash, Martin Singh, and Brian Topp.

Topp and Mulcair are regarded as the most likely candidates to take over as party leader. Brian Topp, the current NDP president who declared his intentions to run for party leader in September, has extensive political experience, but has never been elected to public office.

Thomas Mulcair announced his candidacy last Thursday and is an experienced campaigner and debater, as well as being widely considered the face of the NDP in Quebec.

But do Topp or Mulcair have what it takes to continue what Jack Layton started?

“It’s too early for me to tell,” said Ivan Vasilinin, a student at Marianopolis College. “Each one of them has their own strengths, but I can’t tell you if anybody is suited for the part.”

Montrealer Jose Withmer acknowledged it isn’t going to be easy replacing Layton.

“Jack Layton was big, he was a great man with a big vision and I hope someone is going to fulfill his vision,” said Withmer. “We will never have another Jack Layton.”

Claire Massari, who works as a medical writer in Montreal, admitted she didn’t know much about Topp, but was less than impressed with Mulcair.

“This is for me personally, it’s just my opinion,” said Massari. “[But] I don’t get carried away when Mulcair is speaking. It doesn’t have the same effect that Jack did.”

Nonetheless, Massari remains optimistic. “Quebecers are really counting on the NDP to help them through, so if there is someone who can sort of get them going again, I think they have a good chance,” she said.

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