Leadership candidate Brian Topp says NDP can win by not copying Conservatives by suppressing turnout

Federal NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp has offered a blueprint on how to defeat the Conservative government under Stephen Harper.

At a town-hall meeting at the Bonsor Recreation Centre in Burnaby today, Topp told 125 party members that the NDP must not copy Conservative campaign tactics by focusing on the negative.

"So what’s the Conservative playbook?" Topp asked. "It’s to get people angry, to divide them from each other, and to persuade the people not to vote. That’s what their negative ads are all about. They don’t call their negative ads 'negative ads'. They call them voter suppression."

He claimed that billions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. Republican party, various think tanks, and others on refining negative messages. Their goal, Topp insisted, is primarily to discourage women, young people, and workers from voting.

"The right wing has been copying these techniques all around the world," he maintained. "And they’ve been very successful at suppressing the vote. And therefore, getting their minority—the right-wing conservative minority—to win elections. Just look at voter turnout. It has been steadily dropping all around the world as conservatives have been going by the playbook, which is about getting people angry, dividing them from each other, and getting the rest of the people not to vote."

He went on to say that the federal Liberals blundered by trying to go negative against Harper, which only reinforced the Conservatives' objectives.

Former NDP leader Jack Layton, on the other hand, tried a different approach, according to Topp, who was elected party president last year.

"Yes Jack took them on, and we have to keep taking them on—right between the eyes, right at them," Topp stated. "But he never attacked the Conservatives without also making a positive proposal. A propositional attack. And so when women and young people and working people listened to Jack, they thought this guy is offering me something better."

Topp said that in the next election, the federal New Democrats will be running to form the government. And he suggested that they emphasize their record in government in the past, which he claimed was the best of any party.

"We are the most fiscally responsible with an excellent record of economic management," he said. "Just look at our excellent record here in British Columbia compared to the abysmal Liberal record in British Columbia."

He characterized the NDP as "socially progressive, environmentally responsible”. Then he urged party members to "reach deeply into those traditions and marry them to Jack Layton’s hopeful, optimistic approach" to move forward to victory.

"We should not defeat ourselves even as we’re winning by adopting the agendas of our opponents," he said. "So I will insist that we do not have to become Liberals to win."

To that end, he mentioned his desire to increase the marginal federal tax rate to 35 percent from 29 percent on any income over $250,000.

Topp also promised to tax capital gains at the same rate as other income. More than a decade ago, former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin reduced the capital-gains tax rate to 50 percent of that of working income.

"We cannot do the rest of our platform if we don't address this issue," Topp declared.

The meeting attracted mostly grassroots members, but NDP MPs Libby Davies and Kennedy Stewart and former MP Bill Siksay were among those in the audience.

Comments (26) Add New Comment
hollinm
As usual Topp lives in a fantasy world all by himself. Voter supression my a$$. He is insulting Canadians in the only way a union socialist can. They can't think for themselves and we must save them from themselves. Mr. Topp should get stuffed.
Canadians will never and I mean never give the NDP no matter who the leader is the keys to the treasury. They have turned into the Bloc lite and are defending Quebec. Only the usual suspects in the ROC will continue to vote NDP and in fact they will lose support in the ROC because of their stances in supporting all things Quebec.
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Incredulous
Topp's proposed increase in the top income tax rate will net maybe a billion and a half dollars.

"Topp also promised to tax capital gains at the same rate as other income"

Except that he wants to keep the loophole whereby homeowners aren't taxed on the capital gains on the sale of their homes. That costs the federal treasury $4 billion a year and represents a direct subsidy from the "broke assed home rental" cohort to the wealthy landowner class. It's regressive as hell and he knows it.

Non-taxation of business-paid health and dental benefits costs $3 billion a year. Again, this is borne by broke assed hourly workers with no benefits who are subsidizing wealthier workers with better jobs and benefits.

Time to get serious about policy. Here is a list of all tax loopholes and what they cost the treasury:

http://www.fin.gc.ca/taxexp-depfisc/2010/taxexp1001-eng.asp#tocpart1-06
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Don Fodor
Nathan Cullen is the only candidate with the passion and a cooperative plan to beat the Neocons. It's great to talk policy, however the urgency is to beat Harper so we can implement our socially friendly policies.
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Heather Tuite
This reminds me of a video of Nathan Cullen's. Glad to see candidates who want to do politics differently.
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Chilliwack Guy
Thanks Charlie. I really appreciated this article. Thanks to you and Brian Topp, I am done with voting for conservatives anymore. NDP all the way! Positive politics forever.
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Tim
I think Topp gets it. Voters are disillusioned, especially young voters, like myself. Negative ads turn people off. Thanks Topp for bringing this up! (It really shows your wealth of experience.)
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MFL
Topp's a great guy. I give him props for being the brains behind numerous successful NDP elections. Jack clearly liked him as a back room strategist. I see no reason though, that the NDP should choose him as their leader. He's never been elected, he's got very little charm, and while he clearly understands the back of house aspects of the political game, I've seen very little evidence that he understands the front of house aspects. I hate to say it, but Topp needs to be running the backroom and making sure the genuine politician the NDP elects as leader is actually elected by Canadians.
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ADAM NDP
Full agreement with MFL. Brian is the backroom brains. Why would NDP want to put him in the front window? He clearly projects qualities that are in no way connected to the genuinely patient, composed and " i wanna share a beer with" personality traits that Layton possessed.

Leadership is about so much more than personality, but in the sound bite centric federal election campaigns in today's media age, you either have the personality to sell the rest of your party's package or you don't. Brian Topp does not.
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Arthur Vandelay
"Just look at our excellent record here in British Columbia compared to the abysmal Liberal record in British Columbia."

Statements like that clearly show that Mr. Topp is either not mentally competent or is just lying. That "excellent record here in British Columbia" led to the worst rejection by voters at the polls in BC history, 77-2.

I’m pretty sure he’s just lying.
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Westcoast Gal
MLF is right - the NDP has lots to be grateful for when it comes to Brian Topp. However, it takes much more that strategy to lead a party or a country for that matter. If Topp is serious about stepping out from the back room then he needs to spend some time learning the ropes in the HoC first. Either way he will continue to be a huge asset to the NDP, but he certainly doesn't have the experience or the charisma to be leader of the Opposition or, more importantly, PM-in-waiting.
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MB
Brian Topp is clearly a smart strategist and Jack Layton trusted him in that job and only in that job. He was never asked to run for office by Jack Layton, like Peggy Nash or Tom Mulcair were. Brian Topp has NEVER been elected and seems to have almost no support from the grassroots. Although the party establishment is eager to support him, I've hardly met an average person who says they would vote for the guy. Keep Brian in the backroom, he should use his intellect and tactical skills to support the party, not lead it. If he's elected leader, the NDP loses all the ground gained in May, 2011, because no one will vote for him. He's unlikable and he's awkward, hardly the qualities that will win over an entire country. I'm sure the Liberals and Conservatives will be celebrating if he wins.
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HellSlayerAndy
"We are the most fiscally responsible with an excellent record of economic management"

Ya it's statements like that which certainly fire up the base and really appeal to 'women, young people and workers'. I often look forward to voting for interchangeable political managers who always 'do the right thing' regardless to what the public or their parties think and ensure every stand they take as Opposition is simply 'positioning' and not to be taken seriously if they actually get elected.

Boo on the OTHER GUY for his negative ads which do from time to time make explicit criticisms of Progressives that Progressives don't like.

Of course Progressives can't really USE negative ads, other than 'personal attacks like 'Harper is Scary', because when it comes to the economy, foreign policy and out bidding the OTHER GUY on whose more fiscally responsible and a reliable partner for Enterprise...they're no differences between them.
How about offering tangible democratic reform for the 21st century, Mr. Topp, as opposed listening to ghosts from 150 years ago?

Good choice...one set of Conservatives who want to go back to the Eisenhower 50s and one set that want to go back to the Reagan 80s...surprised he didn't inform the working class that they NEED a vibrant middle class in order to be successful and then dispense with all that equality talk and Progressives being historically the ones that fought against CLASS distinction instead of using it as a scare tactic to get votes.
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Vancouver for NDP
His name is spelled wrong on the signs behind him! Lack of organisation and attention to details. that's a bad sign.
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Eugene Milliken
If Brian Topp is so concerned about positive politics, why is his campaign twisting people's arms so much to support him? Why are they making veiled threats against those who don't? Are the persistent and pervasive rumours of shenanigans with membership lists true? Doug McArthur's concerns from back in September (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/topps-camp...) seem to be coming true.
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Thomas Diaz
I love all the folks that criticize Brian's perceived backroom status and say he can't be the leader because of it. You're talking about a person who has more leadership cred than all the other candidates combined. All of his work at the dawn of NDP elections in Quebec, all of his work in Saskatchewan and BC, and of course, election after election of steady NDP success. That was all Brian.

Who are the alternatives? Peggy Nash, someone as boring as cardboard and obviously has no new ideas or policy since she seems to love re-announcing old Conservative policies like her paper on innovation that containing nothing that the cons haven't already said...

Then there's Cullen who wants to invite the Liberals right in and give them standing to nominate candidates and lauds support all over Vision Vancouver, the federal liberal wing of Vancouver politics. No thanks.

Mulcair? The candidates the Liberals have chosen as their ideal leader? And the one who threw Libby under the bus the first chance he got?

Then there's Dewar who can't even speak French well, so good luck holding Quebec.

I'm sorry, but sooner or later people are going to realize that Brian is the only realistic choice for leader. He has the bold ideas our country is aching for, and the smarts to actually get them done without turning the party into centrist mush.
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David W Glavin
If the NDP want to win an election so badly then there must be something they must start to get done. And thats get there own
political house in order. And if brian topp has got that then good.
But one thing does lie in the ballot box. Thats lets hope for the NDP
To form the next government in Ottawa and lets kick the PCs asses.
Thank you
David W Glavin
Burnaby BC
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Matthew Laberee
Topp deserves credit for his part in the NDP success of recent years. That said, he is no politician. I am as die hard an New Democrat as they get, and even I have a hard time getting behind the man. Not because of what he stands for, but because he does not inspire me. A leader must be more than ideas and strategy, surely. A leader must be ideas, strategy and inspiration. Inspiration to put in those extra hours of volunteering after a long day at work to ensure we realize our goals. He is not that. He was a asset to the dream where he was and where he should remain.
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Karen T
@Thomas Diaz: So what you're saying is that every win the NDP has had was because of Brian Topp? You don't think any of it had to do with the thousands of volunteers? The countless other staffers? The charm of Jack? The NDP's policy? Topp is a strategist man, not a bloody deity. He was one small part of the puzzle. We don't need a leader who is a strategist like Topp. We need someone who has the charisma, warmth, and spirit of a leader. I have to agree with the majority... That's not Topp.
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James G
Every candidate in the race for leader of the NDP brings a plus/minus record along with him. Let's dispense with the also-rans, such as Niki Ashton and Martin Singh and even the remarkable Romeo Saganash, who is capable but has simply not caught fire.

In British Columbia, our "favorite son" if there is one might be Nathan Cullen except for his silly "Human CeNDPede" concept that would have the party sewn mouth-to-anus with the Liberal and Green Parties (yes, a "South Park" reference).

That showed such a lack of political acumen that he should withdraw from the race because he is going to be embarrassed when numbers come in. So, really, we are looking at Peggy Nash, Paul Dewar, Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair.

Paul Dewar has so little on the plus side and one giant negative. In deference to all of us in this country not fluent in French, I must say it is not an absolute requirement for leading the NDP or becoming Prime Minister. Think though about all of us who have tried and failed to master the other official language and with limited time, resources and opportunity. Then consider Mr. Dewar's past. He grew up in heavily bilingual Ottawa, a mere stroll from countless French immersion opportunities and as son of the Mayor - so in a political family with an understanding of the role of the language in such a career. To not pick up some of language even after becoming an M.P. sends a certain signal. I am sure it is not the signal that voters in Quebec don't like to receive, any more than the recent leadership forum in Quebec, where he apparently tried to fake his way through in front of an uncomprehending audience.

Brian Topp has simply not got the skill set required. I believe he knows this. As part of the bureaucracy that tried to find candidates in Quebec and was willing to reach all the way to Ottawa to find a non-Francophone bar staff to run in Trois Rivieres, he never ventured to put his own name forward. His skills as an insider may have also been oversold since those who worked alongside him in Saskatchewan reportedly did not much care for the experience. That is why the support for his leadership bid is top heavy and his ultimate victory a remote possibility.

Peggy Nash is lovely, capable and could definitely lead the party. Leader of the Opposition may be a title and job she could indeed do and, for both good and bad, keep for the foreseeable future.

Thomas Mulcair can win an election. He can be the Prime Minister the party needs to build. Yes, there is no perfect person and he, like Topp, has those who simply cannot work with him. Not everyone can stomach his personal positions on Mid-east issues or understand his dual citizenship. The early salvo lobbed his way by Stephen Harper indicates a real fear that he may indeed be the next leader of the NDP and give the Conservatives their first major challenge (since neither Stephane Dion nor Michael Ignatieff could) of an obvious alternative Prime Minister. Balance sheet for Mulcair is that he can and did get himself elected both provincially and federally on his own merits, he has cabinet experience and he could easily handle himself on the international stage as Prime Minister.

There is also the bonus with the NDP being led by a centrist and the Conservatives not succumbing to their social wing, the next election could be the welcome second (death) blow to the evil weasels of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The NDP must consider what they want from their first government. If they really demand that their first government must be led only by a politician that has the answers to the Mid-East crisis, they may be looking for a leader for a very long time. It is an impossible demand but the party does have plenty of members who have never looked up from position papers to see beyond political correctness to estimate what is achievable.
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Arthur Vandelay
@James G - how is it possible after your encyclopedic analysis for you to not have mentioned that Mulcair is also a citizen of France, by choice no less! This fact alone makes him DOA in a federal election campaign.
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