Federal Liberals and Conservatives have big stake in NDP leadership race

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      At Vancouver's Pride parade, we can expect to see hordes of politicians walking the streets of the West End.

      There will be civic wannabes with their eye on the upcoming council by-election seat. 

      Newly sworn-in MLAs will enjoy the limelight and love bestowed on those who participate in the annual celebration.

      I also expect more than a few federal politicians to be there, including at least one of the four candidates hoping to replace Tom Mulcair as NDP leader.

      Mulcair took a pass on the Pride parade in 2015 just after Stephen Harper announced the start of the federal election campaign. 

      Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, kept his commitment to walk in the Vancouver parade and ended up with the most seats in Parliament.

      In the meantime, federal Liberals and Conservatives are keenly interested in the NDP leadership race.

      That's because the winner could determine the fate of either Trudeau or Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

      This raises the temptation for Conservatives and Liberals to buy NDP memberships before the deadline of August 17 to influence the outcome.

      With all of that in mind, here's how the race is shaping up from their perspective.

      Charlie Angus: a Conservative nightmare

      The Timmins-James Bay MP is the federal Liberals' favourite for the following reason: he has strong appeal to blue-collar voters in mostly white areas outside of Canada's largest urban centres.

      That's where the Liberal party is weakest and doesn't risk losing as many seats.

      Angus's call for a better deal for the working class will resonate with New Democrats in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the 250 area code of B.C., and in Ontario communities outside the 416 and 519 area codes. Conservatives must do well in all those areas to win a majority.

      Angus is the preferred candidate of many of Canada's private-sector union leaders. But don't underestimate his appeal to techies, either. He earned their loyalty by demonstrating a deep understanding of how federal copyright legislation threatened their livelihoods.

      In the Vancouver suburbs of Surrey and Delta, Liberal MPs like Sukh Dhaliwal, Randeep Sarai, Ken Hardie, and Carla Qualtrough could face a rough ride if charismatic Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh becomes NDP leader and wins the hearts of voters of Punjabi ancestry.

      Therefore, don't be surprised if political schemers loyal to Trudeau try to figure out ways to help Angus win, notwithstanding Angus's considerable political skills.

      Those Trudeau lovers of Punjabi ancestry have to be careful, however. If word ever got out in the community that they were trying to thwart Singh, there would be a tremendous backlash against them.

      Niki Ashton is appealing to young voters stuck in the gig economy.
      Charlie Smith

      Niki Ashton: Cuts both ways

      Even though Ashton is a Manitoba MP, where the Conservatives are stronger than the Liberals, she's likely more dangerous to Trudeau than Scheer.

      That's because of her unabashed pitch to social movements, including feminists and the LGBT community, which could generate greater turnout on election day. These are not voting blocs that support the Conservatives.

      In addition, Ashton has spent a great deal of time advocating on behalf of young people with little and no job security and who often survive on contract work. Many of them are in urban and suburban Canada, which is where the Liberals are strongest.

      Trudeau was elected with the support of young Canadians, women, and the LGBT voters.

      Ashton, 34, could pry many of them away to the NDP were she the next leader, particularly by asking this question: "Are you better off today than when Justin Trudeau became prime minister?"

      Ashton's facility with languages and her unabashedly progressive politics could also help her in Quebec, which is a Liberal stronghold.

      She recently won an A+ rating from Canadians for Justice in the Middle East, which advocates that countries in the region should respect international law, that all parties should be held to the same standard, and that violence is not a solution to long-standing disagreements. 

      In the last election, the Liberals won 40 of the province's 77 ridings, even as the NDP had a leader from Quebec.

      At the same time, Ashton's populist and anti-elite message could resonate with the same types of voters who backed Bernie Sanders in the United States. And the Conservatives have sometimes had more success than the Liberals with those who feel dealt out by Ottawa insiders.

      So the Conservatives also won't get a free pass with Ashton leading the NDP.

      Rimouski MP Guy Caron has pushed hard for a guaranteed basic income for all Canadians.
      Guy Caron

      Guy Caron: Hurts the Liberals

      Caron, an economist and former trade-union staffer who represents Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, would likely fare quite well in Quebec.

      He's an economist with a master's degree from the University of Ottawa, as well as a former journalist. And Quebeckers have been known to vote in large numbers for some intellectually inclined politicians, including Pierre Trudeau, Lucien Bouchard, and Jacques Parizeau.

      As the NDP's former finance critic, he was an outspoken critic of white-collar crime, which is a hot issue in Quebec.

      His advocacy for a guaranteed basic income might also resonate in Atlantic Canada. The plight of seasonal workers been a more important political issue there than in other parts of Canada.

      Caron's appeal is likely more limited in the Conservatives fortresses of Saskatchewan and Alberta. That's in part due to his low name recognition but also because of his sometimes sharp criticism of the oil industry.

      Those two provinces are also not known for voting in large numbers for parties led by Quebec politicians.

      Jagmeet Singh has been endorsed by Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

      Jagmeet Singh: Bad news for Liberals

      When two of the four NDP candidates, Ashton and Singh, are significantly younger than Trudeau, it's going to be hard for the prime minister to pitch himself as the candidate who speaks for millennial voters.

      The 38-year-old Singh has staked out a position as the candidate best suited to address racism, based on having endured discrimination and on his record of battling police excesses as a lawyer and an Ontario MPP.

      He's beloved in Canada's large and politically active Punjabi community. And his strong environmental stance has won him support from a dozen B.C. NDP MPs and MLAs opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, which would sharply increase oil tanker traffic in Georgia and Juan de Fuca straits.

      If Singh wins the leadership, Trudeau can kiss some seats away in the suburbs of Vancouver and Toronto. That could doom the Liberals to a minority government, at best, after the next election.

      That's a prime reason why the Liberals would dearly love to stop him from becoming the next NDP leader.

      It's questionable how Singh would fare as NDP leader in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, which remain Liberal strongholds.

      But his ability to pull votes in Ontario and B.C. could still really hurt Trudeau.