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Monday, 26 December 2011

Topp promises wholesale change in bid for NDP leadership

Make no mistake, with Brian Topp at the helm, a vote for the New Democratic Party in 2015 will be a vote for change.


In an interview with Postmedia News, the so-called front-runner indicated the very first thing he would do is introduce a “Parliament Act” to “curb the power of the prime minister.”


That includes getting to work immediately on some of the biggest constitutionally significant proposals the NDP has in its arsenal: abolishing the Senate, introducing proportionality into Canada’s electoral system and limiting the powers of the prime minister to prorogue Parliament when faced with a confidence vote.


“As recent history shows, if you believe as I do that Parliament has strayed awfully far away from responsible government and needs to be saved from itself to some extent, you have to do that right away before you settle into the comfortable pillow of power and get too used to the status quo,” he said.


Beyond that, addressing climate change and moving away from an economy based on the export of raw resources will top his agenda.


Now firmly entrenched in what he calls the “second period” of his campaign — the part in which he moves away from endorsements and into policy proposals — Topp suggested he’s learned from some of the mistakes the party has made in the past when it comes to its agenda.


During the first debate on the economy, he tried to convey the importance of explaining how the NDP will pay for its proposals. It’s something the party hasn’t always done and has cost the NDP credibility in terms of its readiness to form government.


He also believes in being up front about his plan for Canada, noting card-carrying New Democrats who will decide on the next party leader ultimately want to know how he will defeat Stephen Harper and whether it will be “worth it” in the end.


“We should be fearless in saying what we stand for and we should tell the public what we stand for so that we get a mandate to implement what we stand for and change actually happens and is here to stay,” he said.


He’s calling for a riding-by-riding approach to winning the next election. He’ll try to convince Ontarians that the NDP has learned from Bob Rae’s government of the 1990s, and Saskatchewan residents that the party is ready for another chance and will bring a positive message to any campaign.


Known as the “establishment candidate,” the union leader and longtime party strategist who crafted the election platform that won the NDP official Opposition status in the last election, also dismissed the negative connotation behind his moniker.


Sure, he’s got an endorsement from party icon Ed Broadbent and it’s no secret that he was a close adviser to the late Jack Layton, but he believes it’s hardly a hindrance.


“I think our members like their party establishment if by that we mean the team that brought us where we’ve come so far,” he said.


Unlike many of his competitors, the Torontonian who was born and raised in Quebec and has worked in B.C. and Saskatchewan, is not yet a member of Parliament and has faced criticism for his lack of experience in elected politics.


His debate performance was not as strong as some might have expected and he can come off a bit stiff, but he argues there are “no perfect candidates” in any race.


“Mr. Harper was not a perfect candidate when he was running to be leader of his party and there are no perfect candidates in our race. Nobody, for example, is going to replace Jack Layton from a standing start,” he said.


“Jack Layton couldn’t replace Jack Layton from a standing start. Jack Layton in the first year of his leadership was not Jack Layton in the ninth year of his leadership, but I think I can do it and I will put my name forward . . . and the members will decide.”

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