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Profiling Brian Topp: the man from the shadows

The first major obstacle that Brian Topp must overcome is his lack of national name recognition. The Topp campaign has begun to deal with this problem in earnest; with his early entry into the leadership contest, and the resulting media attention this generated, Topp’s public profile has begun to rise. His first stop on the campaign trail was BC – which is currently home to one third of the estimated 86,000 NDP members.

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By Joe Johnson (The Cascade) – Email

Date Posted: October 13, 2011
Print Edition: October 12, 2011

The New Democratic Party of Canada has been led by Layton from the top for the past eight years. He was a compassionate and real person, and drew many good people to the party. As a result, they will have plenty of outstanding candidates running to follow in his footsteps, as the leadership race is now underway.

There’s a copious amount of speculation to go around as to who will vie for the top spot, but until recently there was only one person who had entered the race: Brian Topp.

In order to run Topp had to meet the entry requirements established by the party, including the $15,000 entry fee. Set at double the previous leadership races’ entry fees, it is meant to keep the race limited to only serious contenders. As time has gone on, it’s become clearer who some of those other contenders might be. Apart from Brian Topp himself, the most notable leadership hopeful is Thomas Mulcair from the riding of Outremont, QC. Paul Dewar of Ottawa Centre has recently declared, as has Nathan Cullen from British Columbia and Romeo Saganash of Quebec. Some potential contenders who had been mulling leadership bids have ruled themselves out of the race, including BC’s own Peter Julian of New Westminster.

The first major obstacle that Topp must overcome is his lack of national name recognition. The Topp campaign has begun to deal with this problem in earnest; with his early entry into the leadership contest, and the resulting media attention this generated, Topp’s public profile has begun to rise. His first stop on the campaign trail was BC – which is currently home to one third of the estimated 86,000 NDP members. With Topp making it his top priority to visit BC first, it was mostly to beat anybody else in shoring up endorsements. And he has succeeded in doing so. Already having the initial support of Ed Broadbent, the former federal NDP leader from 75 to 89, he now has Joy MacPhail, Dawn Black, and John Horgan on his side.

But it’s not endorsements that will win him the race. He’s going to have a strong team in place to manage his campaign, and there will be a lot of member outreach and small gatherings designed to communicate his message to the membership of the party. While Topp’s exposure may be increasing, the question remains on who he actually is and where he came from.

Born and raised in Montreal, he speaks both English and French fluently; a major advantage in securing votes in French Canada.

It was when he was working for Broadbent that his political career began in the 1980s. Soon after, he would go on to test the campaign waters himself as a candidate in Montreal, although he wasn’t successful. He then jumped into the western political scene during the early 90s by serving as chief of staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romano. By the time the late 90s came, he had established a considerable amount of varied political experience, which would allow him to return to federal politics as a behind-the-scenes power player. During the 97 and 04 elections he was the man behind the NDP war room, thereafter serving as campaign director in the 06 and 08 elections. He was also Layton’s campaign manager during the most recent federal election, while he most recently served as the President of the NDP.

Topp’s stance on issues revolve around equality. As he recently said on CKNW’s The Bill Good Show, “equality is less [about] gross income gaps between people, it is [about] similar access to health and education and housing…” Part of Topp’s solution is eliminating tax cuts to those in the highest income tax brackets. He also supports the redistribution of power in Ottawa, and with Parliament back in session this is set up to be a very fascinating issue to watch. He supports the abolition of the the Senate, and an increase in the number of seats for BC, Alberta, and Ontario in the House of Commons. However, he also endorses keeping Quebec’s representation in the House of Commons fixed at 25 per cent of the total, which would necessitate increasing the number of Quebec ridings as well as those in BC, Alberta and Ontario.

With Canada having some very distinct parts to the country, he will certainly find it difficult going forward in keeping everybody satisfied. But, a stronger NDP in Quebec will help see a stronger Canada by keeping the separatist Bloc party down.

Brian Topp is a very interesting man and this race is ready to heat up. He’s the first man in, but will he be the last one standing?

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