NDP insider: Saganash, Ashton should pack it up. Topp maybe, too

Ian Capstick is a smart fellow who knows a lot about the political backrooms that most journalists never get to see. He’s a former aide to Liberal Sheila Copps but who eventually left the Liberals to join the federal New Democrats and was, when I first met him in 2005, the very effective and efficient press secretary to the federal NDP caucus. He’s never afraid of a good political fight. Indeed, I believe he enjoys one. And, perhaps most importantly in a town where many inflate their sense of themselves to get ahead, Capstick, in my experience, rarely blows smoke.

So, here he is tonight on CBC’s Power and Politics, responding to some questions from my friend Evan Solomon about the departure from the NDP leadership race of the unilingual Robert Chisholm:

Capstick: “I can only hope that this bout of common sense is contagious and that we can slim down the field to a little bit more manageable number. [Ed: With Chisholm gone, eight are still vying for the job] I don’t think that Niki Ashton can go toe-to-toe with the prime minister. I don’t think that Romeo Saganash is somebody who can go toe-to-toe with the PM. I’m going to be extremely bold here — I’ll probably draw the ire of a good friend of mine — many good friends of mine — and also suggest that Brian Topp may be one who is considering throwing his support somewhere else before the end of this race.”

Wow. Topp — the guy who the Ottawa press gallery thinks is the front-runner — is thinking of packing it in?

Capstick: “You may see someone like Brian Topp come out and say, if I’m not going to win this thing, Tom Mulcair is not. You will see an A-B-T — Anybody-But-Tom — or A-B-M — Anybody-But-Mulcair movement — that dynamic is there … The number one topic at NDP parties right now is “What’s your second choice?””

Topp’s supporters apparently  leapt into action. NDP deputy leader Libby Davies, a Topp supporter, tweeted in response to and at Capstick “We know you’re in there and out front doing great!” (which Capstick, it should be noted, had the grace, to re-tweet to his followers)

Capstick, apparently aware of the firestorm he’d provoked, posted the following under the heading “Ian’s Big Mouthed Theories”:

I suggested in the months to come he (or other frontrunners) could consider it if it looked like he could not win – the way the balloting system works any front runner would have to drop out before the ballots are release. Was it the most articulate way to present the theory? No, clearly not.

I used Topp as an example of a front runner could consider useing the tactic, I also attempted to add that Dewar and Nash could also make the move. I also suggested rather clearly that this was wild speculation on possible tactics as they could play themselves out.  In hindsight I should have used all three names up front and not just Brian Topps name.
I really do apologize if I was misusterstood.(sic)

It’s late in the evening (as Paul Simon memorably sang once) as I write this but I’m looking forward to running this tomorrow by the affected leadership campaigns. In the meantime, what do you think? Should one or more of these NDP Leadership campaigns pack it in?

12 thoughts on “NDP insider: Saganash, Ashton should pack it up. Topp maybe, too”

  1. I’m not sure who appointed Ian Capstick as the party gatekeeper, but I find it interesting that he wants to get rid of the only two multilingual candidates in the race. MacPherson of the Gazette says that only four of the remaining eight candidates speak French well enough, and Ian wants to dump two of them.

    Ian doesn’t think that Niki Ashton or Romeo Saganash can “go toe to toe” with Stephen Harper. That’s nice. He probably shouldn’t vote for them then.

    Romeo Saganash has managed to negotiate treaties on behalf of the James Bay Cree. Niki Ashton managed to knock off an incumbent MP for a nomnation – and two years later knocked of an incumbent Liberal star candidate. But neither of them are tough enough for self-appointed boxing promoter Ian Capstick.

    But pretending his personal opinion should decide who may or not be a candidate is the sort of ugly elitism that Ian would better have left behind in his former party where such troglodyte thinking is still very much in vogue.

    I recall listening to the Ian Capsticks of the Saskatchewan NDP telling me that Ryan Meili was not a credible candidate for the Saskatchewan NDP leadership and only Dwain Linelnfelter could make the SNDP competitive in 2011. Of course Ryan Meili, virtually unknown in February 09, managed 45% on the second ballot. Recent election results suggest that Dwain Lingenfelter may not have been able to make the SNDP competitive in 2011 after all. Yet that analysis was based on the same flawed, myopic, self-absorbed backroom thinking that Ian Capstick has offered up here disguised as analysis.

  2. David: I’m pleased you wrote about that interview. Watching it, I thought Capstick was brutally honest and should be congratulated. Hope someone is listening! So different than all the spin.

  3. Tough call. A slimmed down field would certainly be beneficial for the remaining debates and the voting, but having 8 candidates and their teams out talking to voters and selling memberships benefits the party. With that in mind I think the best course of action would be for all 8 candidates to remain in the race until just before the ballots go to the printers and then a few of those who clearly have no shot at it should withdraw. Having such a large field of candidates on the ballot didn’t work out very well for the Liberals in `06 and it likely wouldn’t work out well for the NDP either.

  4. Sometimes Ian’s mouth does get him in trouble. To my mind he comes across on TV as arrogant and condescending. In fact he reminds of a little yappy dog who is always nipping at your heals. Having said that obviously David likes Ian but me not so much.
    Chisolm is the beginning of those that are going to drop out. There will be a number pull out before Topp decides to pull out if he ever does.

  5. Look, we all know that this campaign is divided into the “I might actually have a chance to win” tier (Mulcair, Topp, Nash, Dewar) and the “I’m just running to put my name out there and float some ideas” tier (everybody else).

    I give amazing credit to Niki Ashton and Romeo Saganash as they are floating some great ideas and represent some key demographics (youth and First Nations, respectively), but a few years back when I was floating the idea of running federally in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour the MLA of Dartmouth North at the time took me to Tim Hortons and told me, “Brian, don’t listen to what all the 3rd parties and political junkies tell you; don’t run a campaign that you don’t think you can win.”

    Niki and Romeo’s purposes would be served much better by being the face for one of the front runners’ campaigns. And as for Brian Topp, I don’t think he should have been running to begin with; the largest caucus in NDP history should not have a leader chosen from outside of it. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Brian Topp put his clout and key support behind someone like Peggy Nash in an effort to knock off Mulcair and cement the leadership race on the first ballot.

    Just my two cents…

  6. Topp for sure. Not enough experience out front, no momentum.
    Let’s not elect a party boy with the machine behind him, lets make a democratic choice and be the New Democrats that we purport to be.

  7. Malcolm, Ian was correct about Ryan Meili being unable to lead the Saskatchewan NDP. He was unable to even contest one single nomination after his second place finish.

  8. David, although I usually agree with you, this Capstick guy is one of THE MOST annoying little dweebs that we viewers of political happenings on tv, has to endure. He often appears condescending, arrogant, and without anything resembling manners, when on the tv panels – you know, all the same things he readily accuses the Conservatives of.
    And being THE MOST annoying is no small feat, when you look at the crop of so-called political pundits that the tv msm parades out every day.

  9. I see that Chris is starting the SNDP leadership wars already. Good on ya.

    Anyone who says they can tell you anything about current standings in the race – apart from Mulcair’s lead in caucus endorsements – is pretty much blowing smoke. That includes anyone who claims that candidate x, y or z can’t win.

    Just as it was in Saskatchewan – right Chris?

  10. Brian Topp was underwhelming in the first candidate debate.

    But if he drops out, what does that say about the judgment of the high profile people who endorsed him?

  11. Sure, just as saying Chapstick was wrong about Meili is incorrect given Meili couldn’t even secure a nomination after a second place finish.

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