Who would Tommy Douglas support for leader of the party he helped found if he was alive today?
Douglas was a Scots-born Baptist minister and socialist. From 1944 to 1961, he led the first social democratic government in North America, and introduced universal health care to Canada. He was practical and unpretentious. He was also a man of principle. In late 1918, when he was 14 years old, Douglas saw the RCMP shoot down and kill a worker during the Winnipeg General Strike. He became a lifelong proponent of bills of rights, and one of the few to speak out against the War Measures Act.
Would he embrace Peggy Nash, who among all the leadership candidates is the closest to being a real socialist, like Tommy?
Would he go with Brian Topp, the backroom boy and strategist, who is possibly the smartest guy in the room, but so far not much of a retail politician?
Or how about Tom Mulcair, the talented and tempestuous former Liberal, who would give Harper a run for his streetfighting money.
Or B.C.’s Nathan Cullen, who as Don Macpherson observes, is the closest to being the kind of happy warrior that Jack Layton was, and who wants to bury the hatchet – not in the Liberals, but with the Liberals.
Tommy Douglas was a gifted orator and storyteller. Here was his favourite story! It is amazingly relevant today. Where he refers to mice, you could insert the 99%.
Read it and decide who it might point to:
"Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.
They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on Election Day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.
Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for the last 90 years and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider than we are.
Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws – that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds – so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.
All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.
Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: "All that Mouseland needs is more vision." They said: "The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouseholes." And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.
And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them – they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.
You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.
Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, "Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?" "Oh," they said, "he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!" So they put him in jail.
But I want to remind you that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea."
Voting on the NDP leadership has already started. For the first time in the history of the party it’s one member, one vote. Or one mouse, one vote. The final tally will be taken at a convention in Toronto on March 24.
The NDP is poised to enter a new era. Who will take up the cause of the mice, of the 99%?