Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/3/2015 (1205 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If the NDP leadership race were a movie, which one would it be?
Perhaps it’s yet another installment of the Die Hard franchise. You know, a story of guys blowing stuff up for the pure, gratuitous joy of it. There has certainly been lots of that in the NDP over the past four months or so.
Or maybe it would be The Crying Game — a movie that you thought was another run-of-the mill love story until there was a shocking revelation. (I’ll keep my pact with director Neil Jordan and say nothing more about that.)
However, if you had to pick just one movie, I would suggest it would be The Titanic — a lavish disaster movie that you can’t help watching even though you know it’s going to end badly.
Going into this weekend’s historic vote to either re-confirm or replace Premier Greg Selinger, there is, like any good disaster movie, an air of impending doom. Right now it’s a very close race, with the best insider estimates showing less than 100 delegate votes separating Selinger from challengers and former cabinet ministers Theresa Oswald and Steve Ashton.
The characters in this movie are certainly compelling. Selinger is a lead character, although it’s difficult to tell at this point whether he’s the good guy or the bad buy. The victim of a ruthless mutiny, he has clung to power with an equally ruthless, often unethical vigour.
Oswald would certainly like to play the role of party saviour, but like Selinger, it’s unclear at this point whether she deserves a white or black hat.
And then there is Ashton, a man who cannot remember when he didn’t want to lead the party. He is to politics what Mike Myers claimed Keith Richards was to rock and roll: the man who cannot be killed by conventional means.
For so much of this campaign, Ashton had been the presumptive front runner thanks to selling the most memberships and winning most of the high-yield constituencies. However, that narrative has evaporated. Ashton lost several important delegate battles and now he faces the possibility he may have reached his ceiling of support.
Selinger has been resilient, if nothing else. Assailed by mutineers and pounded by polls showing his declining popularity, he has defied the odds and remains very competitive.
Oswald as well has run a good campaign, positioning herself as the candidate of the future, even though her fate in this vote is far from settled.
Which of the three candidates will triumph on Sunday? That is proving very hard to predict.
Ashton won more support from the 57 constituencies, but only by a slim margin. Once you factor in automatic and union delegates, however, the race changes considerably.
There are 358 labour delegates and about 200 automatic delegates, which include two officials from each NDP riding association, party officials, and MPs and MLAs. These two groups are traditionally less likely to support Ashton.
Automatic spots are awarded to certain people regardless of who they support. That makes them much more unpredictable. As for labour, despite the better efforts of big unions like CUPE and UFCW to whip up support for Selinger, intelligence from the trenches suggests these delegates are profoundly split.
That has not stopped some of the candidates from claiming they have momentum. Selinger shocked his challengers last week with a news release claiming he had support from 780 delegates. Given published results from ridings, and solid intelligence from the unions, that seems unlikely.
Despite that tenuous claim, it does appear more and more likely that Selinger, riding union support, will be the first ballot leader. He will not have enough support to win on the first ballot, but he will lead the way.
That leaves Ashton and Oswald to battle it out for second place and a spot on the second ballot.
The wild card here is the total number of delegates who will vote on Sunday. At one point, more than 2,200 possible delegate spots were up for grabs. That number has shrunk considerably.
Labour could only fill half of its total allotment. And of that number, it is expected there will be no shows.
The total has also been affected by the number of mail-in ballots from northern ridings. At last count, most northern ridings were near 100 per cent, but in The Pas, a key for Ashton, a dozen or more delegates failed to get their ballots in the mail in time.
Take away several hundred union spots, and factor in some no-shows and you have a total turnout closer to 1,800.
Second-ballot scenarios are no easier to predict than those for the first ballot. Not factoring in people who change their minds at the last moment, we seem to be moving closer and closer to an Oswald-Selinger showdown on the second and final ballot. Given that Oswald starred in the mutiny that sparked the leadership campaign, it’s seems only fair she get a chance to square off against her nemesis.
Strategists for both Selinger and Oswald feel they could beat Ashton on a second ballot. Ashton’s strategists are confident they could beat anyone, anytime. Such is the comfort that comes with abject optimism.
Of course, it should be noted that whoever "wins" the leadership vote will receive a questionable prize: the right to lead the NDP into an election it appears less and less likely it can win.
Which makes me think, perhaps the movie that best captures the NDP leadership race is The Sixth Sense. You know, the one where the main character goes through the entire movie before learning he was dead all along.
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.
Updated on Friday, March 6, 2015 at 5:52 PM CST: Alters title of film in paragraph two.
6:41 PM: Changes total number of expected delegates to 1,800.