Subscribe to PSTV 'Views and News'

Our monthly 'PSTV Views and News' gives extra tidbits on guest interviews and upcoming guests..

First Name *
Last Name *
Email *
10 2012

Introducing Brian Topp

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

Most Canadians had probably never heard of Brian Topp, until his friend and leader, Jack Layton, died. After all, Topp had never been elected to anything, had worked in the backrooms of NDP provincial governments out West, and rarely seemed to get much ice time on television, even when he was president of the federal NDP. But after Layton's death, Topp and his backers seized the moment. They knew several MPs would presumably contest the vacant leadership, but thought their guy, despite his never previously indicating an interest in seeking elective office, would be the best candidate. Topp is originally from Quebec. His French is excellent. He works for ACTRA, the cultural industries union, and today (January 10), introduced himself to Toronto with a kind of coming-out speech to the Economic Club of Canada. If anyone thinks Topp would move the NDP as its leader more to the middle of the political spectrum, today's speech should disabuse them of that notion. He is a proud social democrat, would be happy to take on big business and the billions in tax breaks it currently enjoys, and redirect that money to other priorities, such as creating a cap and trade system or helping fund more public transit. For a guy who's never been elected to anything, he sounds remarkably confident that he will win both the leadership of his party, and the next general election in 2015. "Most national governments have a transit strategy," Topp told the audience. "Ours doesn't. When we're elected, we will."  For a guy with precious little experience as an active candidate for public office, Topp comes across as extremely impressive. His facility in both languages helps. He knows what he knows and expresses it with strength and confidence. He is comfortable in his own skin. He is personable. When someone asked him a question he didn't know the answer to, he didn't do what every other politician would have done --- fudge the answer. He simply admitted he didn't know.   If he wins the leadership (slated for March 24 in Toronto), Topp's personal life will change immeasurably. He currently lives with his wife and two teenaged children in Toronto's west end. But he so fervently believes that the NDP has to hold its Quebec base, he'll pick up his family, move to Quebec and will run there. He admitted to me today it was a heart-wrenching decision, "But we just can't lose all the gains we've made in Quebec." That's the main reason he didn't contest Jack Layton's former seat, Toronto Danforth, which nominated Layton's replacement last night. The problems with running in Quebec are myriad. First of all, the NDP already has almost 80% of all the seats in Quebec already. Many people think they only won them because of Jack Layton. And they lost one today when one MP crossed the floor to sit with the Liberals. So if he wins the leadership, Topp will have to convince one of the other NDP MPs to quit, then run in the ensuing byelection. Will he run for a seat if he doesn't win the leadership? "That's my intention," he says. It was the one answer he gave that sounded political. That answer has an "out clause" big enough to drive a truck through. But that's for another day. Today, the story is that Brian Topp finds himself in one of the most unusual places in Canadian political history: no elective experience, but potentially a stone's throw away from the prime minister's chair in the House of Commons. Brian Mulroney knows what that's like. But not many do.

Previous post:

Next post: