The queue went down the escalator of the
Lord Elgin Hotel – not that it was running – and stretched across the lobby.
Inside the room, people were arranged not only for the backdrop, but to surround
the stage at the centre of the room. Things quickly grew hot and stuffy as more
and more people were crammed in, and the size of the crowd rivalled – if not
surpassed – that of Jack Layton’s campaign kickoff back in March.
Two emcees started off – the anglophone
veteran of many an NDP campaign, and the local activist francophone – followed
by an endorsement from a local law professor and activist who feels that Dewar is “not an egotist and not a cynic” but really cares for people.
Dewar came on stage with his family to
announce his candidacy. He said that “Jack never aimed low, nor must we.” He
talked about the past five months being the happiest of times and the saddest
of times, riding the “orange crush” to the role of Official Opposition and the
loss of their leader. He credited others’ “keen observations” about why he
would make a good leader, combined with his own role in the grassroots
of the party and his love of people. He said that he went from being an aid worker in
Central America to being a constituency worker in central Ottawa to being a teacher
and vice-president of his union.
He called the leadership a “chance to build
on our social democratic principles” and said that “now is the time to move forward
with energy and determination,” adding that “our New Democratic Party is open,
engaged and growing.”
He admitted that his French is a
challenge, and it was spoken hesitantly and without any fluidity. But he
promised that he was working on it, before talking about how he understands
that the core of Quebec’s political culture is social democracy. He said that he
will overcome the challenge of his French to take on Harper in both official languages.
And with that, he was off, and the
provincial candidate took the microphone to make a plea for the assembled
members to paint Ottawa Centre “double orange” as supporters were filing out
of the room.
In the press scrum that followed, once the room
had cleared, Dewar said that he wasn’t going to be differentiating his
position from the other candidates; instead, he was going to differentiate himself from
the other leadership candidates and would run on “what he’s about,” and would take that message to the grassroots. And considering that he has no caucus
endorsements currently, that may have to be his particular strategy. Like
all NDP MPs, Dewar assured the assembled media that once the leadership contest
was over, all New Democrats were going to unite to fight Harper.
I was curious, however, in that Dewar
seemed to say that Canada needs to move beyond “brokerage politics,” which he
claimed is about “pitting one province against the other,” rather than the
accepted definition of the horse-trading that happens (usually in
backrooms) to help get policy or legislation passed. What Dewar might mean by “getting past” either the accepted
definition of brokerage politics or his own particular definition, which
amounts to regionalism, is hard to really determine.