Does she or doesn't she? well-placed NDPers are starting to wonder if the reason that lame-duck leader Alexa McDonough is so intent on an early convention call is that she supports Bill Blaikie over someone like, say, Jack Layton.McDonough, who has a list of grudges longer than the Halifax-Dartmouth bridge, will no doubt recall that Layton signed on to that damned New Politics Initiative, a bid to kill the party that he now wants to lead. She can't support Blaikie outright, of course, but she does what she can.
An early call would be a boost for Blaikie, who has been sitting in the House of Commons since Trudeau was PM and won't have to work as hard as Layton at signing up supporters. "Jack hasn't sat in caucus with Alexa," says a senior NDPer in Ottawa, "whereas Bill and Lorne have been there since she was elected leader. I would suggest that they share more in common, and Alexa cares more about Bill's interests than about Jack Layton's or Lorne Nystrom's."
An eavesdropper at the recent Nova Scotia NDP convention backs up this suspicion. "Alexa went on and on and on about Bill -- everyone noticed that," says the source.
NDPers close to the outgoing leader pooh-pooh any ulterior motives behind her wishes for an early date, saying she just wants to do what's best for the party, etc. Meanwhile, party staffers are frantically combing the country looking for a venue, preferably one that doesn't give an untoward advantage to any particular candidate. Downtown T.O. would be out. Maybe the date and locale will be known by the time the leadership hopefuls come sniffing around the Ontario NDP provincial council in London this weekend, where federal politicking threatens to distract from Howard Hampton's bid to rouse the faithful for the next provincial vote.
There will be hospitality suites, of course, including one hosted by Layton. He'll be able to afford lots of beer after raising $10,000 at a barbecue last weekend where attendees included former MP Don Heap, ex-city councillor Richard Gilbert, gay reverend Brent Hawkes and Janet Solberg, the sister of Steelworkers staffer Michael Lewis.
The NDP race finally has a confirmed candidate -- Blaikie, who made his announcement at the very same religious mission in Winnipeg where J.S. Woodsworth used to work. Alas, pundits commented on how flat the famed orator's big announcement was, and asked why, when he has to attract the anti-globalization crowd, he'd stacked the stage with older white men. A pair of non-glare glasses was also suggested.