You wouldn't think that in the last few lazy days of summer an almost-certain-to-lose by-election would get anyone beyond a tiny core of the most NDP-faithful to show up for a nomination meeting. But you would be wrong.
There was a hefty turn-out and palpable excitement in the air at last night's St Paul's NDP meeting despite the sweltering heat hanging tough in the Bracondale House seniors' residence basement meeting room on St Clair.
This gathering was hastily moved up in response to McGuinty's recent announcement the by-election to replace retired MPP Michael Bryant (now working as CEO of Invest Toronto for the City of Toronto) will take place on September 17. The 150-person buzz in the room is honey to new provincial NDP head Andrea Horwath because this is her first election as leader and she is out to make her mark.
It's not a complete walk in the park for two-time NDP St Paul's candidate Julian Heller. He's facing off against two worthy opponents each a generation removed from him. Former Scarborough East MPP Bob Frankford was a member in the good old Rae days and he's interested in returning to politics after decades in health activism fighting infectious disease and poverty.
On the younger side is the most unusual of the many political specimens gathered. Stuart Parker is the prodigal son returned to the fold after serving as the former head of the Green Party in BC.
On his website, but not in his well-crafted uber-NDP speech this night, he speaks very boldly about the real elephant in the room - the need for the NDP and Greens to consider some kind of co-operation or slice and dice their vote into irrelevance. Looking forward to watching how he fares with that point of view.
As you might have guessed, long-running Heller wins handily on the first ballot and it will be some time before we will get to see where Parker lands. I will certainly be watching with interest. This little by-election, is raising the kind of vote-splitting themes that are now central in all Canadian elections. The fact there is a federal one looming ever closer makes it all the more fascinating.
Biggest bummer of the night are the two themes that Hor
vwath, Heller and fund-raising fire-breather Peter Kormos see as the NDP trump cards in this by-election.
One is HST and it defies common sense to see the NDP run a campaign on an anti-tax theme in this day and age. The other is e-health which, while a sure-fire money-sink that's hard to manage and harder to bring home, is more a technocratic than a progressive political issue. Mission drift appears to be a real threat for this campaign though all the usual NDP watchwords do abound.
The conclusion of the election seems foregone but the race is shaping up to be a pretty interesting playing field with all candidates having some kind of progressive side to flaunt in their own way. Liberal Eric Hoskins has a string of impressive progressive credentials including as co-founder of the rocking War Child Canada. Green candidate Chris Chopik is himself a green energy machine.
Even Tory candidate and Sun columnist, Sue-Ann Levy isn't completely straight. Well, in fact, since she is a dyke, I guess you could say she's not straight at all, at least in some sense. Lots to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.[rssbreak]