‘Let’s do it for Jack’

James McLeod
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NDP looks to the future, and selecting a new leader

It’s just over a week since NDP leader Jack Layton died, and the party is starting to look to a future without him and the job of picking a new leader.

One MP who won’t be in the running is St. John’s South-Mount Pearl Ryan Cleary, but only because he doesn’t speak French.

“If I was bilingual, I would have my name in the hat,” Cleary said. “Because I’d have every opportunity to put all of Newfoundland and Labrador’s issues front and centre on the national agenda.”

With more than half of the NDP caucus hailing from Quebec, fluent French is seen as an absolute necessity for any aspiring candidate.

Out of the gate, the immediate frontrunners seem to be party president Brian Topp and deputy leader and Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair, both of whom have said they’re thinking about it.

Neither Cleary nor St. John’s East MP Jack Harris wanted to speak about specific candidates, but both said Layton will be a tough act to follow.

“It’s a tricky time, right, because obviously anybody who puts their name out there as a leadership contender is going to be compared to Jack Layton, and there will be no living up to that legacy,” Cleary said.

Harris said aside from French, the major qualification for the new leader will be to simultaneously mentor the many junior members of the NDP caucus and still command the respect of long-serving members.

Beyond that, he said, the leader will have to “at the same time present ourselves, in our four-year window that we have, as a true alternative government to Mr. Harper.”

In his final letter to party members and Canadians just before he died, Layton encouraged the party to hold a leadership convention and pick his successor “as early as possible in the new year.”

But before that can happen, the party will have to make it through the fall session of the House of Commons, led by interim leader Nycole Turmel. Both Cleary and Harris expressed confidence about that.

“We have to appear and be working as a serious team, and challenge the agenda of the government,” Harris said.

“It going to be tough. I don’t discount that at all, but I think we do have the people to do the job.”

Cleary said the caucus is “solid” and he’s confident about the political talent within the ranks of NDP MPs.

“Jack Layton’s legacy is a solid New Democratic Party, and we have a great base. We have a great foundation,” he said. “People ask me, ‘How do you see the fall sitting? You know, how’s that going to go without Jack?’ It’s going to go fine. People will pull together.

“The attitude will be, more or less, let’s do it for Jack.”


Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: New Democratic Party, House of Commons

Geographic location: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Grant McLachlan
    September 01, 2011 - 17:15

    Let the heroic man rest in peace. Accusations that the NDP is using Jack's death as a political tool is insulting and erroneous.

  • james
    August 31, 2011 - 09:52

    ndp should be ashamed how low can you go

    • Janice
      August 31, 2011 - 11:37

      Can't go any lower than Harpo.

  • Greg
    August 31, 2011 - 09:31

    Yup, nothing like using a man's death as a political tool. Saddest part of all is that this is how Mr. Layton wanted it to go. Tugging on people's heartstrings, because no one voting with their brain would vote NDP. “If I was bilingual, I would have my name in the hat,” Cleary said. “Because I’d have every opportunity to put all of Newfoundland and Labrador’s issues front and centre on the national agenda.” That'd be a great attitude for a leader of a federal party, of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition none the less, to have Mr. Cleary. Who cares about the country anyway, it's all about Newfoundland right?

  • NDP Concerned Supporter
    August 31, 2011 - 09:30

    I am concerned where this country is going with having to be Bilunguial to be a leader, or to get a job where they require you be such. With all due respect for the Quebec French speaking Canadians, I think this issue has gone too far. Most of the French speaking Quebeckers know English, and so there shouldn't be an issue with an English speaking Leader. My opinion is that there are too many seperatists that want to disadvantage the English speaking majority. These people (Quebeckers) want us to bow to them on their language, but have no respect for the English, and that to me is discrimination, and totally against the Constituation. That's my opinion, and I stick to it, I'm sorry!

  • Duffy
    August 31, 2011 - 07:46

    The loss of Jack is sad but the government (we) paid for a state funeral that turned out to be a poltical ralley.................... Be wary of the NDP who will use the death of their leader to gain support and votes.

  • Steve
    August 31, 2011 - 07:17

    Why didn't they just staple a pair of wings on Jack's back and hoist him on a rope into the heavens? All he was was the leader of the Bloc Québécois