According to NDP insiders and MPs, potential candidates for the NDP leadership race are thinking that the later, the better, when it comes to announcing their bid.
The main reasoning behind this comes down to being able to get the most attention.
With 14 candidates dramatically fighting for leadership of the Conservative Party right now, and American President Donald Trump âgobbling upâ space within Canadian news cycles, âyou can imagine a shrewd NDP candidate would want to let that bad news goâ before trying to compete with it, said Alice Funke of Punditsâ Guide.
She said a number of people within the party have suggested to her thatâs a major cause for the delay in candidates announcing.
NDP MPs Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, B.C.) and Murray Rankin (Victoria, B.C.), agree that the Conservative leadership race is a deterrent for potential NDP candidates right now.
âThere is no holdup,â Mr. Davies said. Because the NDPâs convention was held last April, the leadership race was extraordinarily long. No one expected candidates to join the race right away.
And, no one expected 14 candidates to be in the Conservative leadership race. Mr. Davies said this is a reason why candidates might still be hedging.
The exception is MP Peter Julian, who just announced his candidacy for the leadership over the weekend.
Mr. Julian might be the only candidate officially in the race, but there are at least four others âcircling one another,â says Ms. Funke.
That list includes MPs Niki Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Man.), Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.), and Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette-TĂ©miscouata-Les Basques, Que.), who just resigned his finance critic role to explore his leadership options, and Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, who was just recently featured in GQ magazine for his social media savvy and political ambitions.
âItâs like the penguins on the ice problem,â she said. âThe first penguin off the ice is afraid to jump in because theyâll be eaten by the predator,â meaning the first candidate in might be subject to more scrutiny than the others, and have a harder time trying to reposition themselves as candidates with competing policies join them. Â
Robin Sears, an NDP pundit and principal with Earnscliffe Strategy Group, said while he doesnât understand it himself, what heâs heard is candidates are feeling âthat itâs better to be last than first…because you can get more attention, and the field will be established,â which might make it easier to contrast themselves against their competitors.
Mr. Sears also said the key candidates are already organizing behind the scenes, despite not having officially registered. He added another bird analogy to Ms. Funkeâs penguin one: âthereâs lots of activity…Itâs kind of like the ducks on the pond, there doesnât seem to be much happening [on the surface], but [thereâs] furious pedalling underneath.â
Mr. Rankin said in addition to the Conservative leadership race, candidates might also be considering the upcoming provincial election in British Columbia on May 9.
âA lot of our membership is from British Columbia. One doesnât want to interfere with the election in B.C. So that was one of the reasons that the party, in its wisdom, decided to wait until after the election”Â to hold the leadership election.
Between now and then, Mr. Rankin said, âfundraising and peopleâs attention, at least in my province, is going to be on the provincial election.â Then, itâs summer.
âSo the idea was to set it in October. Some people think thatâs too long, but thereâs good reason.â The next leader of the party will be chosen no later than Oct. 29.
The NDP is also the only major federal party with the unique system of having one large party that includes the provincial NDP.
Ms. Funke said regardless of the reasoning, she does think itâs about time for candidates to enter the race. âI do think itâs past time, honestly, for these folks to declare,â she said. “If theyâre circling each other to wait and see who goes first, that is not the kind of bravery that is called for to take on this kind of challenge. They should step forward and step up and be brave.â
She might not have to wait too much longer. With Mr. Julian in the race now, and a leadership debate scheduled in Ottawa for March 12, the feeling is candidates will start to officially launch their campaigns over the next few weeks.
âI think itâs pretty clear that the party wouldnât have scheduled the debate unless they had had consultations with the prospective candidates, and so this will all come to an end very soon,â Mr. Sears said.
National director of the NDP Robert Fox said âwe are confident that there will be multiple candidates for the first leadership debate in Ottawa,â via an email from party spokesperson George Smith.
All MPs who spoke to The Hill Times for this story denied there was any problem with Tom Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) staying on as leader throughout the campaign, during whichÂ some candidates mayÂ critique his track record. Â
âI think Tom has made it clear…He said heâs going to be steering this ship into port, and [wants] to hand off this ship to the new captain, whoever that may be, in tip-top shape,â Mr. Rankin said.
But, some within the party believe there will be an awkwardness to criticizing Tom Mulcairâs leadership while he is still the one leading.
A former NDP staffer, who did not want to be identified in order not to jeopardizeÂ future employment with the party, said thereâs a fear of Tom Mulcair in caucus. âHave you seen what he can do in Question Period? He’s a powerhouse,â the former staffer said.
The former staffer said while people respect the work Mr. Mulcair has done for the party, âitâs a really delicate dance, always respecting your predecessor, but having the balls to step into the spotlight.â
But, Ms. Funke said Mr. Mulcairâs leadership and the leadership race are two separate issues. âA successful candidate is one who lays out the plan and the vision for where to go next, not to belabour whatâs just happened [in the last election],â she said.
Ms. Funke said despite fundraising for the NDP overall being lower than what it has been in recent years, itâs âbasically back at 2011 levels.â
âI think a serious leadership contestant will not have difficulty raising,â Ms. Funke said. Â
Mr. Sears agreed. âThere may be issues with raising enough money at the front end, but thereâs quite a huge cadre of people they can go to and demand some money from. Using an excuse like a lack of fundraising ability might suggest the candidate shouldnât be in the race in the first place.
Mr. Sears said he thinks the lower party fundraising is in part because âsome people are saving their cash to support a candidate or two.â