The New Democratic leadership hopefuls held their first debate on Sunday. It was a generally polite affair, but with two debates (one in French, one in English) between nine candidates squeezed into 120 minutes there wasn't much time to really get into it.
If I'm not mistaken, subsequent debates will be either all in French or all in English, which should give the participants more time to get into detail.
I thought it not a bad debate to get things started. But with the buzz about Nathan Cullen's performance, Brian Topp's targeting of Paul Dewar, and the trouble with Robert Chisholm's French, one is led to believe that the endorsement rankings may be a few notches below actual support for several candidates.
One hopes that a poll or two might be commissioned now that the debates have begun. While it won't tell us what NDP members think, it will give us an idea of what Canadians and NDP supporters think. These kinds of polls may not predict the race's outcome, but it will give us something to compare what the voting public wants to what the members decide.
But this being Wednesday, it is time for an endorsement update.
Peggy Nash is this week's big winner, as she gained the endorsement of three-term Victoria MP Denise Savoie. Though she may not be a household name, Savoie does have quite a bit of respect on Parliament Hill as Deputy Speaker.
Savoie gives Nash an extra 7.5 points, bumping her up to 89 overall, or 19.5% of currently available endorsement points.
Nash is now only 15 points behind Thomas Mulcair, who has not picked up an endorsement in some time. Topp, too, has been quiet on this front. There are still 43 sitting NDP MPs that have not endorsed any candidates, so there are still plenty of points to go around, not to mention the support of NDP party leaders in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island and the myriad of MLAs, MHAs, and MPPs in those provinces.
Niki Ashton is also up one point thanks to the endorsement of British Columbia MLA Guy Gentner. This gives Ashton 18.5 points to 4.1% of the total, pushing her back into fifth place ahead of Paul Dewar.
None of the other candidates have picked up any endorsements this week. Will the debate shake any fence sitters loose? I imagine we'll get another round of endorsements after the holidays to get the ball rolling on 2012.
(Click here for an explanation of the point system and here for the value of various endorsements.)
EDIT: Sorry for the mistake, this is not true. For the life of me, however, I am sure that the Bloc originally stated that mailed-in ballots had to be post-marked by November 28. Now, votes need to be received by December 10. Did they change the rules mid-campaign, or am I remembering incorrectly? I imagine it is the latter, as it would have been noticed more widely. It seems there was a misunderstanding somewhere.
EDIT Part 2: On further review, it seems that a statement on the Bloc's website ("Les bulletins de vote devront être expédiés au plus tard le 28 novembre 2011.") was misinterpreted by many people, including myself. It says that the ballots should be sent at the latest by November 28. The statement is referring to the Bloc sending out the ballots by November 28, not that voters need to send them out by then. The more detailed rule document makes this clear. Apologies for the error.
But that hasn't stopped the endorsements from pouring into Daniel Paillé's campaign. Shortly after my last update, Paillé emerged from a meeting with the Parti Québécois's caucus with the endorsement of 21 PQ MNAs.
This has given him a big 21-point jump, pushing him up to 53.7% of all available points. Jean-François Fortin has dropped down to 30.2% while Maria Mourani is now at 16.1% of the total available.
These endorsements indicate that if Paillé wins he will have good support inside both the PQ and the BQ.
Sunday's result could be a bit of a surprise, though. The race has been relatively low-key and it is difficult to get a gauge on what the members think. After May's defeat, how many of the party's 36,000 or so members are still engaged enough to vote? Are the ones who are engaged looking to change the party, which would benefit Fortin and Mourani, or are they the never-say-die, veteran base, which would benefit Paillé?
It will be interesting to see the results. I'd say that Paillé is most likely to win, but it is very possible that Fortin could also pull through. I don't think Mourani has much of a chance, but no outcome can be completely ruled out.