The New Democratic Party selects its new leader to replace the late Jack Layton at a special convention March 23 to 25 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. With seven candidates vying for the job and little policy distinction to tell them apart, it’s still an open contest.
Whoever wins will become the leader of the official Opposition and is poised – according to the party – to be the next prime minister. Squaring off against the Harper Conservatives, one of these people will be leading the fight to protect and advance queer rights in Canada until the next election in 2015.
Below, we’ve compiled a decoder to guide you through the NDP convention.
“There has to come a point where in your foreign policy that type of refusal to recognize human rights becomes an impediment to closer relationships.”
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‘s interview with Thomas Mulcair
CLAIM TO FAME: Former Quebec cabinet minister, and Jack Layton’s appointed Quebec lieutenant. MP for Outremont.
ENDORSEMENTS: 43 MPs, more than any candidate, including gay MP Philip Toone. Plus dozens of local politicians and activists.
CAN BE DISTINGUISHED BY: Declared that Jack Layton posthumously changed his mind about Mulcair’s French citizenship disqualifying him from office. Vowed to leave the Commonwealth if it didn’t show progress on decriminalizing gay and lesbian people.
QUEER CRED: Having already campaigned in the gay villages of Toronto and Montreal, Mulcair held a Bears for Mulcair event at Vancouver’s PumpJack pub in February.
“Gay Canadians, like all Canadians, share common issues and values. And so I think all of us care about the fact that the Conservatives have broken the government.”
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‘s interview with Brian Topp
CLAIM TO FAME: A long-time behind-the-scenes strategist, Topp is credited with having engineered the NDP’s rise during the last four elections. A native Quebecker, Topp lives in Toronto where he is CEO of the actors’ union ACTRA.
ENDORSEMENTS: Long-time lesbian MP Libby Davies, gay former MP Bill Siksay, former leader Ed Broadbent, former premiers Lorne Calvert and Roy Romanow, a dozen other MPs, two former BC NDP leaders.
CAN BE DISTINGUISHED BY: Topp was the first to announce his bid for the leadership. Topp has called for an end to criminalization of HIV transmission and creation of a minister for LGBTTQ affairs.
QUEER CRED: Actor Peter Keleghan released a video explaining that he was voting for Topp because he “love[s]” him, later clarifying that he meant Topp “is a great kisser.” The video ended with Topp’s slogan, “Let’s get the job done.”
“I guess for me, working around equality issues and specifically working to end homophobia has been a priority.”
CLAIM TO FAME: MP for Parkdale-High Park (Toronto).
ENDORSEMENTS: Nine MPs, including LGTB critics Randall Garrison and Dany Morin, and a number of provincial and municipal politicians, including out BC MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. Several union leaders.
CAN BE DISTINGUISHED BY: Could be Canada’s first ginger prime minister.
QUEER CRED: First candidate to release a platform of LGBT priorities. Gay men love a strong woman who’s overcome adversity — as her 2008 election loss to former Liberal star Gerard Kennedy and successful 2011 rematch demonstrated.
“We have to make sure that we keep up with the support and services in our healthcare system for the queer community, and particularly the younger demographic.”
CLAIM TO FAME: MP for Ottawa Centre.
ENDORSEMENTS: Eight MPs, dozens of current and former local politicians in Manitoba, Ontario and BC, and several human rights, environmental and labour activists.
CAN BE DISTINGUISHED BY: Uh . . . Having steered away from controversial positions, look for Dewar to emerge as a possible compromise candidate.
QUEER CRED: Dewar is well liked by Ottawa’s queer community. But although he told Xtra’s Dale Smith that he planned to table a policy document on queer priorities, he hasn’t as of press time.
“I think there’s still a latent misunderstanding, sometimes homophobia, within the political class in Ottawa, particularly within the Conservative Party.”
CLAIM TO FAME: MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.
ENDORSEMENTS: Two BC MPs and a few BC MLAs.
CAN BE DISTINGUISHED BY: Proposed a scheme to work with the Liberal Party to co-nominate a single candidate in certain ridings to help defeat Conservative incumbents. The plan was widely ridiculed.
, “I think sometimes what happens with the LGBT community is that they get pandered to, and issues get segregated and put off as particularly different.”
“When I talk about equality, I also talk about the need to end discrimination against LGBTQ Canadians and a real commitment to establishing equality for queer Canadians.”
ENDORSEMENTS: Two MPs, a BC MLA and several local Manitoba politicians.
CAN BE DISTINGUISHED BY: At 29, Ashton is the youngest candidate in the race. If she wins and makes a successful bid in 2015, she will be the youngest prime minister in Canadian history.
QUEER CRED: Ashton says she was inspired to run for office when her local MP was the only member of the NDP caucus to vote against same-sex marriage. She says she disagreed with her MP’s portrayal of Northern Manitoba as being okay with discrimination.
“I wouldn’t want to say as a leadership candidate that I have any particularly inspired policy [addressing queer issues], as the party’s policies are very much topnotch.”
CLAIM TO FAME: Is a pharmacist in Musquodoboit Harbour, NS.
ENDORSEMENTS: Singh has said that Mulcair is his “second choice” for the leadership.
CAN BE DISTINGUISHED BY: Frequently talks about developing a national pharmacare plan.
QUEER CRED: Worked with the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health and the Halifax Sexual Health Centre.