NDP hopes Broadbent will revitalize party

By Stela Susic

Ottawa Centre New Democrats reached into their past Tuesday to boost the party’s future.

Chants of “Ed! Ed! Ed!” reverberated through Sala San Marco on Preston Street when Ed Broadbent officially won the NDP nomination for the federal riding recently vacated by Liberal Mac Herb.

“I might make the odd speech outside of Ottawa Centre . . . but I know I have to earn my credentials with the people (of Ottawa Centre),” said Broadbent, a former NDP leader, addressing the roughly 500 party members at the nomination meeting.

Officials, who did not release the final ballot results, said he defeated his opponent, elementary school teacher and union activist Paul Dewar, by a margin of 4-1. The win begins Broadbent’s journey back into federal politics, inching him closer to a seat in the House of Commons.

Broadbent was NDP leader from 1975 to 1989, guiding the party to its strongest showing in the with 43 seats. Beaming, he predicted another strong showing in the next federal election.

“If they give us 40 or 50 seats in the House of Commons, we will turn the Liberal priorities in the House upside down,” he said. “But if they give us 50 to 100 seats . . . we will turn Canada rightside up.”

In announcing his political comeback last year, Broadbent said he wanted to reverse the effects of right-wing liberalism that has taken over the country.

Much of this rhetoric found its way to the podium , starting with Jack Layton, the current NDP leader, who called Prime Minister Paul Martin’s political agenda a “corporate agenda adrift of Canadian values.”

“Canada must not buckle down to . . . corporate . . . interests,” Dewar added later.

The NDP criticism comes in the wake of recent Liberal public spending freezes.

Martin halted at least four different capital spending projects that would have brought economic growth to Ottawa Centre. In addition to the Public Service freeze, Martin put a stop to the planned $151-million Federal Court and the $275.8-million Parliament Hill buildings, as well as the proposed $90-million political history museum.

United in their opposition to the growing divide between the rich and the poor in Canada, Broadbent and Dewar gave identical speeches which focused on affordable housing, the environment, public health care, education, and foreign policy issues important to their riding.

Ottawa Centre has a population mix of university students, new Canadians, working-class families, and bureaucrats.

Sala San Marco looked more like a sardine can than a banquet hall, with more than 500 of these constituents squeezing together to show their support for the candidates. The sea of orange Broadbent posters and plackards being waved in the air gave an early indication of the final results.

“He just looms large. He knows what he’s doing and he’ll again be a powerhouse in federal politics,” said Daniel Waselnuk, a Broadbent supporter.

A strong candidate will be needed to win the Ottawa Centre riding, he said.

Broadbent will face Liberal Richard Mahoney, Green Party candidate David Chernushenko, and Raymond Samuels, the interim leader of the newly founded Cosmopolitan Party. Mahoney, a lawyer and a Paul Martin confidante, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Chernushenko said he believes the Broadbent victory is a good thing.

“He is a highly respected, talented man . . . I’m hoping he will raise the level of policy and ideas (in the government).”