Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill – The Con Game: The Campaign of Nobodies – November 25, 2011

CFN – It was Pierre Trudeau who famously said that MPs were nobodies once they were 50 yards from the Hill. That reference could certainly apply to the present day NDP leadership campaign. It’s a bit of a con game, IE a campaign of nobodies.

While the candidates are a decent bunch of individuals and hardworking constituency MPs, can Canadians envision all but a couple of them as the next Prime Minister of Canada?  I say that because in the end that is what this leadership race is all about. Whoever wins will be the Leader of the Official Opposition and potentially if everything falls into place for them, our next Prime Minister.

It might seem like a pretty harsh judgment, but federal politics is the big league in Canada. It is a brutal battleground where only the toughest and best survive. Being a nice person and a hardworking MP doesn’t mean that you are Prime Ministerial material or even party leadership material. That has been proven time and again and if you look back over the last 10 to 15 years in Canadian political life you can count quite a few leaders (from all parties) who didn’t survive.

Of course politics is as much about ego as it is experience and the low financial commitment required to enter the NDP leadership race has allowed those with the ego, if not the experience or ability, to run for the NDP leadership.

Thomas Mulcair and Robert Chisholm at least have some senior level provincial political experience and they are well known in their respective provinces. A couple of others might be well known inside the Queensway and Ottawa bubble, but they are hardly household names. Brian Topp is well known to the rank and file in the NDP party, but again largely unknown to the public at large and he is someone who has never been elected at any level. It remains to be seen if the backroom boy can take the heat of a leadership race that is still in its infancy and which has yet to turn ugly.

As for the rest … other than the candidates themselves, how many Canadians can envision Prime Minister Paul Dewar or Prime Minister Nicki Ashton. How many can see Martin Singh, Peggy Nash, Romeo Saganash or Nathan Cullen as our Prime Minister? Could they stand toe to toe with Stephen Harper and the Conservative brass knuckle style of politics?

The Official Opposition is the government in waiting. The MPs you see in the House are potential cabinet ministers. Can you see 30-40 of the present NDP MPS sitting in cabinet being led by one of the present leadership candidates? If you can’t then the NDP has a problem that the present campaign must address, something it has so far failed to do.

Having spent some 30 years in politics I have seen and participated in my share of leadership contests. I know that some candidates are putting their names forward because they want to be better positioned for when the leadership race after this one opens up. There is also a chance that the two main contenders, Topp and Mulcair will battle to a draw and the party will then turn to a third choice. But if that should happen it won’t mean that they will be any more competent to govern, but it will mean a relatively unknown MP is suddenly thrust into the spotlight of prime time coverage. That option doesn’t always work, remember “Joe Who”?

The party still has plenty of time to raise the candidate’s profiles and improve their name recognition with Canadian voters, but with a limited number of leadership debates that will be difficult task. Until then it will be up to the candidates themselves to raise their profiles as they crisscross the country to meet party members (hopefully not on their MPs travel points). Either way they have a difficult task to convince Canadians that they should be the next Prime Minister.

For now, once these MPs leave the spotlight of the daily Question Period and once outside of their ridings, they remain largely unknowns, an example of the nobodies Trudeau referred too.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. And what do we call people who are stupid and stubborn about the pressing issues of the day – climate change, poverty, human rights; who don’t want to know about facts, scientific evidence, the researches of experts, and the realities of the world we share today; who in a time of recession waste the treasury on unwanted and unneeded projects?

    These are the real, scary Nobodies – the people currently in charge, across the aisle from the NDP.

  2. PJR writes -“who don’t want to know about facts, scientific evidence”. Facts, scientific evidence about the reality of climate change – wait a minute, whatever happen to global warming? The liberal scientific community lead up by the likes of Dr. Suzuki, saw that they were losing the battle for their global warming propaganda campaign in their own back yard, i.e. the rest of the scientific community, so they switched to climate change. I wonder if they used “facts” to support such a change? Or was it more politically correct to do so? Or are they beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

  3. admin – we have come down to being “bugs” – this is really a bugs life!

  4. Author

    Hey Tom. It’s going to be over 10 degrees today, November 26th….you’re just semantically making a point, right? It’s not based in reality, right?

  5. Author

    We’re testing avatars. You can actually use your own personal one if you wish.

  6. The weather has been getting more and more extreme all over the planet for the last few years. You’d have to be nuts to ignore that fact.

  7. We have to keep in mind that we elected a prime minister who believes that the world is only a few thousand years old, and that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. He also believes that the second coming of Christ (the Rapture) is immanent, so obviously he doesn’t give a rats a$$ about climate change or science. He’s kind of a fire and brimstone sort of guy, and we’ve all known that for years, so maybe we have the PM and government we deserve.

  8. Admin – is today’s temperature caused by global warming, climate change, or cyclical trends in weather patterns? Some scientific research done on cyclical trends in weather patterns:

    600 A.D. to 900 A.D. – Dark Ages cold period
    900 A.D. to 1300 A.D. – Medieval warming or Little climate optium
    1300 A.D. to 1850 – Little Ice age (two stage).
    1850 to 1940 – Warming , especially between 1920 and 1940
    1940 to 1975 – cooling trend
    1976 to 1978 – sudden warming spurt
    1979 to present – a moderated warming trend, very slight according to satellites and weather balloons, somewhat stronger according to surface thermometers.

    The above research is taken from “Unstoppable Global Warming” by S.Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery. New York Times bestseller, updated and expanded. Very interesting and very scientific book!

  9. PJR, your question made me answer the Voters and lack there of!

    I would much prefer the MP’s to have less than Hollywood status but answer every question – how will that affect the Taxpayer if implimented or not? Instead, no matter the party, we get them asking what is my best side for the photo op!

  10. Eric, great point on the MPs anwering the question. I agree. At the moment it’s a farce.

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