Here’s a bit of local trivia that could become a footnote in history: the next Prime Minister of Canada may one day trace his or her residential roots to our very own west-end federal riding of Parkdale-High Park.
Stumped? Think NDP. Think NDP leadership campaign to replace the late Jack Layton. Think leadership candidates Peggy Nash and Brian Topp.
That Nash is a local denizen is hardly a secret. First elected in 2006 — then defeated by Gerard Kennedy two years later before again capturing the seat in 2011 — she calls a neighbourhood on the east side of High Park her home.
Lesser known is the fact that Topp — the penultimate NDP insider and Layton confidante — has lived in the Warren Park neighbourhood of the riding for more than 20 years. For those who may be geographically challenged, Warren Park is a community found in the far northwest reach of the riding that practically touches the boundary with Etobicoke. It’s a post-war subdivision located on the banks of the Humber River and was first established on a flood plain following the devastation of Hurricane Hazel almost 60 years ago.
Topp and Nash are both considered frontrunners to replace the late NDP leader. Topp enjoys considerable support of the party establishment starting with icons like former leader Ed Broadbent and one-time Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow. He’s lined up considerable caucus support, which is critical in a party that uses a one-member, one-vote method of selecting its leaders. The 103 NDP caucus members can strongly direct how their local membership eventually votes.
Nash doesn’t enjoy the same level of caucus support nor endorsements from party figureheads. But as the leading women’s candidate she can count on substantial support from the influential feminist wing of the party, as well as from being the only Toronto-based MP contesting the position. Until declaring her intentions to run for the leadership, she occupied a position on the official Opposition bench as finance critic, attracting considerable media attention.
Winning the NDP leadership race may prove to be the easiest part on the journey to occupying the Prime Minister’s Office. Being handed the keys to 24 Sussex is a whole other matter.
For starters, the next federal election is still more than three years away. If, as is often said, a week is a lifetime in politics, then three years is an eternity.
Second, the NDP may be, for the time, the official Opposition, but it’s a party walking on awfully thin ice considering the bulk of its Opposition status rests on the strength of a Quebec caucus that may be annihilated in the next election by either a resurgent Bloc Quebecois or a reinvigorated Liberal party.
Finally, whether Topp or Nash or someone else — most probably Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair — ends up winning the leadership, he or she will be lined up in the crosshairs of Stephen Harper’s attack machinery that so successfully demonized previous Opposition leaders Michael Ignatieff and Stephan Dion.
In Harper’s worldview, Nash (formerly with the CAW) and Topp (director of ACTRA) will be portrayed as pawns of evil union bosses. Either way, each will need to find the strength and wits to withstand the anticipated withering attacks by the Conservative party.
Should they manage to dodge all these bullets, it’s not beyond the realm of the possible that one of them could become the country’s first prime minister from our very own neighbourhood.
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