Skip to main content

Federal leadership candidate Brian Topp speaks during town-hall session at the B.C. NDP convenstion in Vancouver on Dec. 10, 2011.RICHARD LAM

Wasting no time, Brian Topp is trying to raise money on the back on Stephen Harper's take-it-or-leave-it health deal.

In a fundraising appeal, the NDP leadership hopeful argues the Prime Minister believes his wealthy friends are more important than the health of Canadians.

"Stephen Harper says we have to slash stable increases to our healthcare funding – but let his wealthy friends keep their tax breaks," Mr. Topp writes. "I think he's dead wrong."

Under the subject line "Stephen Harper was right," which may startle a few New Democrats - Mr. Topp says the Prime Minister admitted "that stable funding for healthcare is simply unaffordable in the current situation."

The former party president adds: "And for once, Stephen Harper was right. Don't stop reading! Let me explain."

At a meeting in Victoria with his provincial counterparts Monday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty surprised everyone when he plunked a 10-year deal on the table at lunch. It gives the provinces a 6 per cent annual increase until 2016-17, after which point transfers would tied to growth in nominal GDP.

Mr. Topp says the fact the Harper government plans to tie increases in health funding to economic growth means that "in good years your family might get the care it needs. In bad years, perhaps that would be less true."

But meanwhile, he writes, "Mr. Harper's wealthy friends will get their tax cuts in good times and bad. That's just wrong. I say it's time Harper's wealthy friends start paying their fair share. Our healthcare shouldn't suffer just so the wealthiest among us can benefit."

The veteran NDP strategist, who is one of nine candidates seeking to succeed the late Jack Layton, has put out a bold plan to raise taxes. He is advocating a new 35-per-cent tax rate for Canadians making more than $250,000 a year. Some pundits say he may have trouble selling this as any talk about raising taxes makes Canadians nervous.

Mr. Topp notes his plan in the letter and calls on other New Democrats to support his bid by giving him $100 or $200. There is a $500,000 spending cap for the leadership race, which ends in March. "If you believe like me that stable healthcare funding is more important than tax breaks Harper's friends, I want you to help me win this leadership," he said.

While Mr. Topp is trying to raise funds another candidate, Paul Dewar, is trying to raise his profile. The Ottawa MP released a YouTube video Tuesday introducing himself to potential voters. Not surprisingly, since his language abilities have been criticized, the first words out of his mouth in the video are in French.

Dewar spokesman Joe Cressy said the video, which is called "A future to believe in," was released "via an email blast to all NDP members across Canada." The Ottawa MP hopes it will provoke some discussion about his ideas over Christmas dinner; and in the new year, Mr. Cressy said, the campaign plans to buy space on Internet blogs and Facebook to "profile" the ad.