It’s official. Brian Topp, the current NDP president and a backroom architect of Jack Layton’s leadership and electoral victories, will run for the party’s top job.
Topp made the announcement alongside two high-profile supporters – former leader Ed Broadbent and Gatineau MP Françoise Boivin.
Topp immediately reached out to Quebec voters: “Twenty-five years ago when I made that commitment, I believed that to earn the privilege of governing Canada, we had to win in Quebec,” Topp said of the day he joined the NDP. “I believed that then; I believe that today. I chaired our party’s first successful riding campaign in Quebec, and I worked in Parliament. I served in a senior role in the government of Saskatchewan, working closely with one of Canada’s great leaders, Premier Roy Romanow. I’ve been a party volunteer, an activist and a team leader.”
Topp also highlighted his current work with the federal NDP, including a key role in the party’s election campaigns under Layton.
He immediately addressed any question of a merger with the Liberal Party, declaring, “We don’t have to become Liberals to win.”
Broadbent was clear on why he has thrown his weight behind Topp’s bid.
“When I nominated Jack eight years ago, the party badly needed a bright, deeply committed social democrat who had the openness and energy not only to rebuild the party, but also to take us to the next, higher level,” Broadbent said. “Although Jack had no previous parliamentary experience, he exceeded our wildest expectations. Now we need another builder – one who will take us from leader of the Official Opposition to the Prime Minister’s Office… Brian Topp is that person. He has the political and intellectual substance we need to meet today’s challenge.”
While Layton had plenty of electoral experience with Toronto City Council, including an unsuccessful bid to become mayor, Topp has never run for public office.
Yet Topp’s bilingualism and experience both inside and outside Quebec convinced Boivin to add her endorsement.
“He’s a leader, and this makes him able to bring together Canadians and Quebeckers in the New Democratic Party in order to give Canada a government that looks after families, seniors, women, workers,” Boivin said. “Brian was born in Quebec, he worked in Quebec, he’s participated in working with the party in the province.”
Boivin’s endorsement puts an end to speculation she was contemplating a bid of her own. It also signals that Quebec MPs will not all necessarily back the expected leadership bid of Thomas Mulcair, the party’s deputy leader and its Quebec lieutenant.
Topp committed to running as an MP even if he doesn’t win the leadership. However, he is not sure if he will run in Toronto-Danforth, the seat previously held by Layton. By law, the prime minister must call a by-election within six months of a riding becoming vacant, which falls within the timeframe of the NDP leadership campaign.