Open main menu

2003 New Democratic Party leadership election

The New Democratic Party leadership election of 2003 was held to replace New Democratic Party of Canada leader Alexa McDonough, after her retirement. It ended on January 25, 2003, with the first ballot victory of popular Toronto city councillor Jack Layton.

2003 New Democratic Party leadership election

← 1995 January 25, 2003 2012 →
  Jack Layton-cr bl (cropped).jpg Bill Blaikie.JPG Lorne Nystrom (2012).jpg
Candidate Jack Layton Bill Blaikie Lorne Nystrom
Popular vote 31,150 14,365 5,397
Percentage 53.5% 24.7% 9.3%

  Joe Comartin.jpg Pierre Ducasse at an NDP rally (cropped).png
Candidate Joe Comartin Pierre Ducasse
Popular vote 4,490 2,155
Percentage 7.7% 3.7%

Leader before election

Alexa McDonough

Elected Leader

Jack Layton

New Democratic Party leadership election, 2003
NDP-NPD Canada.svg
DateJanuary 24, 2003
ConventionRicoh Coliseum,
Exhibition Place
Toronto, Ontario
Resigning leaderAlexa McDonough
Won byJack Layton
Entrance Fee$7,500
Spending limit$500,000
New Democratic Party leadership elections
1961 · 1971 · 1975 · 1989 · 1995 · 2003 · 2012 · 2017

The election was the first to be conducted under the NDP's new partial one member, one vote system, in which the popular vote of the members is weighted for 75% of the result. The rest are votes cast by delegates for affiliated organizations (mainly labour unions). It was also the first Canadian leadership convention to allow Internet voting; delegates who chose to vote electronically were given a password to a secure website to register their votes.

The race was heated, with the leaders campaigning to NDP audiences across Canada. One of the most notable events of the campaign occurred at the convention in Toronto, the day before the election, when candidate Pierre Ducasse made a stirring speech.[1] Ducasse's speech attracted widespread praise,[2][3] although its late delivery was unable to sway the postal and internet votes which had already been cast.


Jack LaytonEdit

Jack Layton

At the time of the election, Jack Layton was the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 30 and vice chair of Toronto Hydro, and a former university lecturer and environmental consultant. He had run and lost in both the 1993 and 1997 federal elections. His emphases included homelessness, affordable housing, opposing violence, the natural environment and the green economy. While other campaigns stressed federal experience, Layton's campaign contended that his record on Toronto council and as former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities encompassed national issues and would transfer to the federal stage, and that as Alexa McDonough had on her election as leader, he could lead the party successfully from outside Parliament until winning his own seat.

Bill BlaikieEdit

Bill Blaikie

At the time of the election, Bill Blaikie was the MP for Winnipeg-Transcona, the NDP House leader and the critic on intergovernmental affairs, justice, the Solicitor General, and parliamentary reform. He had been a Member of Parliament for over 20 years. His emphases included trade, Medicare, taxes and the environment, and his parliamentary experience. An ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, Blaikie was a prominent heir to the Social Gospel, Christian left tradition deeply rooted in the NDP.

Lorne NystromEdit

Lorne Nystrom

Lorne Nystrom was the MP for Regina—Qu'Appelle at the time of the election, and the NDP critic of economic policy, finance, banks, national revenue, public accounts, Crown corporations and electoral reform. Through his 29 years in Parliament, it was the third time he had run for leader. Nystrom campaigned heavily on the issue of electoral reform. Other emphases included his parliamentary experience and practical left-wing economics; he had edited a book on financial issues, Just Making Change.

  • Date campaign launched: July 31, 2002

Joe ComartinEdit

Joe Comartin

Joe Comartin was the MP for Windsor—St. Clair and the environment critic at the time of the election. His election in 2000 had been the first federal win for the NDP in Ontario in ten years, and he helped add a second Ontario seat with Brian Masse's win in the neighbouring Windsor West in 2002. His emphases included Mideast peace and support for UN resolutions on Palestine, and his campaign reached out prominently to the Muslim Canadian community.[4]

Pierre DucasseEdit

Pierre Ducasse

Pierre Ducasse was the Associate President of the NDP at the time of the election. His underdog campaign stressed outreach in Quebec and building the party toward electoral success. It also drew on Ducasse's background in co-operative economics.

Bev MesloEdit

Bev Meslo was a Vancouver-area activist and represented the New Democratic Party Socialist Caucus in the leadership election.


Candidate Membership Votes % Labour Votes % Labour Votes Weighted Total Votes % Campaign Contributions %
Jack Layton 22,453 51.4% 572 59.8% 8,696.9502 31,149.9502 53.5% $446,472.00 53.8%
Bill Blaikie 10,914 25.0% 227 23.7% 3,451.4121 14,365.4121 24.7% $195,569.00 23.6%
Lorne Nystrom 4,865 11.1% 35 3.7% 532.1560 5,397.1560 9.3% $89,684.00 10.8%
Joe Comartin 3,289 7.5% 79 8.3% 1,201.1522 4,490.1522 7.7% $70,712.00 8.5%
Pierre Ducasse 1,577 3.6% 38 4.0% 577.7694 2,154.7694 3.7% $18,688.00 2.3%
Bev Meslo 554 1.3% 6 0.6% 91.2268 645.2268 1.1% $8,815.00 1.1%
Total 43,652 100.0% 957 100.0% 14,550.6667 58,202.6667 100.0% $829,940.00 100.0%


The labour votes at convention were weighted to equal 1/3 of the total membership votes cast (43,652 / 3 = 14,550.67).

This was done to ensure that labour held 25% of the total votes cast for Leader, as required by the NDP Constitution.

As a result, the vote of each labour delegate was equal to approximately 15.2 membership votes.

Campaign contributions were those reported on the interim financial statements, as of November 30, 2002.



  • June 5: Alexa McDonough announces she will step down as leader.
  • June 17: Bill Blaikie declares his candidacy.
  • July 5–7: The NDP Federal Council convenes to adopt rules.
  • June 25: Pierre Ducasse declares his candidacy.
  • July 22: Jack Layton declares his candidacy.
  • July 30: Bev Meslo declares her candidacy.
  • July 31: Lorne Nystrom declares his candidacy.
  • August 13: Joe Comartin declares his candidacy.
  • November 26: Final day for candidates to declare candidacy.
  • December 12: Last day to become an NDP member who can vote.


  • January 24: The convention begins in Toronto, Ontario.
  • January 25: Ballots are cast, Layton declared victorious.


  1. ^ "Imagination | Solutions". 2003-01-25. Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  2. ^ dru in canada (2003-01-25). "NDP Leadership". misnomer. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  3. ^ "Canada Election 2004 Voter Guide: Political Parties - New Democratic Party (NDP)". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  4. ^ "Muslim Community Doubles NDP Membership in Quebec for Joe Comartin". CMAQ. 2002-12-06. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  5. ^ "NDP 2003 Leadership Voting Analysis". Straight Goods News. 2003-01-30. Archived from the original on 2016-08-17. Retrieved 2017-05-30.