Brian Topp

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Brian Topp
President of the New Democratic Party
In office
June 18, 2011 – September 12, 2011
Preceded by Peggy Nash
Succeeded by Rebecca Blaikie
Personal details
Born (1960-07-04) July 4, 1960 (age 54)[1][2]
Longueuil, Quebec
Political party New Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Rebecca Elbourne (since 1993)
Children Simon and Alex
Residence Toronto, Ontario
Alma mater McGill University
Profession Union leader, political organizer and strategist, writer

Brian Topp (born July 4, 1960) is a Canadian political strategist, union leader, and writer. He was a candidate for the federal leadership of the New Democratic Party during their 2012 leadership vote.[1] Born in Longueuil, Quebec, Topp is fluent in both of Canada's official languages. He is married to Rebecca Elbourne, with whom he has two sons.[3]

He was president of the federal New Democratic Party, is the Director of Information Services at ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) and the Executive Director and CEO of ACTRA Toronto.

Personal life[edit]

Brian Topp was born in Longueuil, Quebec, and grew up in neighbouring Saint-Lambert on Montreal's south shore.[4][5] In addition to Montreal, Topp later lived in Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, and Vancouver at various points in his life.[6] His mother was a francophone Québécoise and his father was an anglophone from the Eastern Townships.[5] Topp's father occasionally lectured at the McGill School of Commerce during the 1970s.[7]

In 1993, Topp married Rebecca Elbourne with whom he has two sons.[1] The family has an orange cat named Tigger,[8] purported by Topp to be more charismatic than Stephen Harper.[9] His wife ran unsuccessfully as an NDP candidate in previous elections, as did his mother-in-law. Following the NDP's breakthrough in 2011, Topp jokingly stated that it was "too bad they didn't run this time."[10]

Topp is reputedly a fan of board games, particularly the strategic game Civilization.[11]

He is portrayed by Judah Katz in the 2013 CBC Television film Jack.

Early years, education, early career[edit]

Topp attended elementary school in Saint-Lambert at the francophone École Rabeau and the anglophone St. Francis of Assisi School. He attended MacDonald-Cartier High School in the Longueuil borough of Saint-Hubert for his secondary education.[12] He studied social sciences at Champlain Regional College, a CEGEP in the Montreal-area suburb of Saint-Lambert, from 1977 to 1979. He was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and was elected to the College Board of Governors where he served on the executive committee.[2]

In 1979 he enrolled at Montreal's McGill University where he studied history and political science.[2][13] While at McGill he was a senior news editor with the McGill Daily, and a member of the Scarlet Key Honour Society.[2] As a reporter for the McGill Daily in 1981 Topp asked Bob Rae – then an NDP Member of Parliament – a "disrespectful question" and, in Topp's words, Rae "blew his stack."[1] Topp also interviewed René Lévesque, which he called "without any question the most intimidating 10 minutes that I've ever had in my life."[14]

In 1983 Topp founded Studio Apostrophe, a graphic design and typesetting company which produced Open City Magazine (a publication described as a precursor to the Montreal Mirror),[15] for which Topp served as editor-in-chief.[2][13] While running his print shop, Topp was introduced to the NDP by friends of his who came seeking printing services.[14] One of his clients was Phil Edmonston, whom Topp would later aid in his successful campaign to become an NDP MP.[14]

Political career[edit]

Brian Topp at the 2009 NDP Convention

Entry to politics: Montreal and Ottawa (1985–1993)[edit]

Topp has been involved with the NDP at provincial and federal levels for several decades.[16] He joined the NDP in 1980 in order to support Ed Broadbent.[5] Topp was active with the NDP in Quebec long before their political breakthrough in 2011; Topp first campaigned for the NDP during a 1985 provincial byelection in Montreal.[13] He later said that they "had a big party afterwards, dancing on tables even, because we increased our vote from one per cent to two per cent."[13] He became active with the federal NDP during the 1988 election campaign,[1] and first went to work in Ottawa in 1990[17] as an aide to Montreal-area NDP MP Phil Edmonston,[18] whom he had helped become the first elected Quebec MP in NDP history.[19]

Romanow government (1993–2000)[edit]

Topp then moved west to work with the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party as deputy chief of staff to Premier Roy Romanow from 1993 to 2000.[16][19] While there he earned a reputation for being a dedicated but sometimes harsh political operator.[20] After the 1999 provincial election he helped to keep a minority NDP government in power by striking a coalition agreement with the Saskatchewan Liberals.[21] The coalition governed for four years until the NDP regained a majority mandate in the 2003 election under the leadership of Lorne Calvert.[20]

Return to Ottawa (1997–2011)[edit]

Topp co-ordinated the war room for the federal NDP during the 1997 and 2004 elections. He was the party's national campaign director in 2006 and 2008. Topp served as a senior adviser to federal leader Jack Layton during the 2011 federal election campaign,[16][22] and was intimately involved in negotiating the attempted Liberal-NDP coalition agreement during the 2008–2009 Canadian parliamentary dispute.[19] Topp wrote about this experience in his memoir, How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot: The Inside Story Behind the Coalition.[1]

He also served as an adviser to former Toronto Mayor David Miller during his successful election campaign in 2003.[23] Topp had also been recruited by Adrian Dix to manage the British Columbia New Democratic Party's campaign in what seemed at the time to be a likely fall 2012 election.[24] Following the conclusion of Topp's own leadership bid for the federal NDP, Dix announced that Topp is still set to be the campaign director in any future provincial campaigns.[25]

He became president of the New Democratic Party in June 2011.[16] When elected to the position, Jack Layton said of him, "[he's] one of the most principled and hard-working people I know. He's been an integral part of our team for years and is just the person we need to bring us to the next level."[13]

Although Topp is well-respected for his negotiation skills and has spoken in favour of cooperation between the NDP and the Liberals, he has rejected a merger of the parties, saying, "We don't have to become Liberals to win office."[3]

Alongside fellow NDP colleague Anne McGrath and the party leader's wife Olivia Chow, Brian Topp was one of the few individuals who would help Jack Layton write his final letter to Canadians before he died.[26][27]

Candidacy for NDP leadership[edit]

Brian Topp during a candidates debate on February 12, 2012 in Quebec City

On September 12, 2011, Topp announced that he was running for the 2012 NDP leadership race. Topp's name had been circulated as a leading candidate shortly following the death of his friend and colleague, Jack Layton. In an Ottawa press conference, he highlighted his roots in the party, and the fact that he's a native Québécois.

Topp indicated that if he won the NDP leadership he would seek a House of Commons seat in his native province of Quebec.[28]

Topp had been criticized by Simon Fraser University professor Doug McArthur of using "a kind of pushy, almost bullying, operation," and noted the similarity to the aggressive tactics that were used by Paul Martin organizers in order to win the leadership of the federal Liberals in 2003. McArthur suggested that "The strategy of the Topp machine is to run over every candidate before they have a chance to really get going", quoting one of Topp's staffers who stated "let's get this leadership campaign over before it even starts", and pointing to the campaign efforts to discourage Romeo Saganash from running.[29] Prospective candidate, Peter Julian denied that pressure was applied to him, saying the candidates have "very cordial relationships among all of us."[29] In December, it was revealed that McArthur was actively supporting Thomas Mulcair.[30]

Topp primarily campaigned on the platform of preserving the party's principles while at the same time presenting himself as being the most able to convince voters that the NDP is capable of forming a government.[31][32]


In the first half of the leadership race, Topp released two policy planks – one regarding his plan to raise taxes and the other on his view of social democracy.[33] Topp's tax plan would create a new income tax bracket for those making over $250,000 and would remove many of the loopholes and taxbreaks around capital gains and stock options.[34] Topp has also come out in support of a Palestinian state.[35]

On January 10, 2012, Topp released a policy document detailing the act he would introduce as prime minister that would reform parliament to reduce the powers of the prime minister, abolish the Senate and bring in Mixed-member proportional representation to the House of Commons.[36]

Further policy releases have included his wish to reform some of the party's organizational structure,[37] making protecting the environment a critical part of the nation's economy,[38] protecting the arts in Canada,[39] creating a national child nutrition program and expanding pharmacare coverage,[40] as well as a plan to help support small businesses and guarantee better access to development capital.[41]


Brian Topp campaigning for the leadership in British Columbia with supporters Dawn Black and Joy MacPhail

Joining Topp at his announcement was Françoise Boivin, MP for Gatineau, and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, who had endorsed Jack Layton's leadership campaign in 2003.[42] Boivin had previously considered running herself. Dawn Black, former leader of the opposition in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, previously endorsed Topp's candidacy for the NDP leadership.[43]

Topp picked up endorsements from nine other New Democrat MPs, including deputy leader Libby Davies. He also received endorsements from former Saskatchewan premiers Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert,[44] former BCNDP leader Carole James,[45] over a dozen British Columbian MLAs[46] and the United Steelworkers labour union.[47]


Just prior to the convention opening, Topp and Ed Broadbent, both defined the race as staying true to the NDP cause, by going with Topp, or moving to the centre and away from its current principles by going with Thomas Mulcair. Pundits had comparisons with New Labour in Britain under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, with Mulcair's stance on the party.[82][83][84]

Topp finished second on the first ballot behind Mulcair, a position he maintained on the second and third ballots.[85] He ultimately finished second on the fourth and final ballot with 42.8% of the vote to Mulcair's 57.8%.[86] After the results were announced, Topp went on stage and reportedly told Mulcair "let me be the one to raise your hand" shortly before Mulcair made his acceptance speech.[87] Mulcair, for his part, has signalled that he would be willing to work with Topp in the future.[88] On November 8, 2012 Thomas Mulcair and Olivia Chow will join a Chinese dinner in Toronto to help Topp retire some of his campaign debt.

BC election defeat[edit]

Topp was brought to Canada's West Coast by Adrian Dix, the provincial leader of the Official Opposition, to manage the 2013 election campaign for the British Columbia New Democratic Party. Despite starting with a significant lead in pre-election polls, the BCNDP campaign failed to prevent the re-election of the Liberals under Premier Christy Clark and actually won fewer seats for the party than in 2009.

Other work[edit]

Topp announced in early 2013 that he was joining with potential political opponents to create a new public-affairs strategy firm KoolTopp & Guy with conservative Ken Boessenkool (former advisor to Stephen Harper and Christy Clark) and federal Liberal Don Guy.[89]

Topp served as executive director of ACTRA Toronto (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) until leaving to manage the 2013 provincial NDP election campaign in British Columbia. He is also a member of the board of directors for Pinewood Toronto Studios, chair of the board for the Creative Arts Savings and Credit Union, a co-chair of FilmOntario, and a member of the board of directors for ROI Fund.[2]

Topp is the author of How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot: The Inside Story Behind the Coalition, a memoir about his experiences attempting to broker a coalition between the NDP and the Liberals to take down PM Stephen Harper's Conservative government. The book details the negotiations that he engaged in with Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, Dawn Black, Ed Broadbent, Jean Chrétien, Roy Romanow and Allan Blakeney.[1] The book was nominated by Samara and the Writers' Trust of Canada as one of the "Best Canadian Political Books of the Last 25 Years."[90]

Topp also writes a column for The Globe and Mail. In one piece, he argued against supporting tax cuts with debt and supported the deep government spending cuts of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement-led government in Greece, writing, "the root causes of all of this madness needs to be addressed in the style Prime Minister Papandreou is using to address the crisis here in Greece."[91]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Topp, Brian (2010). How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot: The Inside Story Behind the Coalition. Lorimer. p. 192. ISBN 1-55277-502-X. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Brian Topp". LinkedIn.  (registration required)
  3. ^ a b Smith, Joanna (September 7, 2011). "Topp touts his long experience in politics as NDP leader material". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ Giroux, Raymond (October 1, 2011). "Brian Topp: un Canadien errant". Le Soleil (in French). Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Topp, Brian. "Campaign Announcement". Brian Topp. Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Topp's vision of Canada gives Quebec an edge". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved September 13, 2011. 
  7. ^ Topp, Brian (March 15, 2010). "The central fact of Canadian politics". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved September 11, 2011. 
  8. ^ Topp, Brian (October 19, 2009). "A modest proposal". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Brian Topp gets catty". September 14, 2011. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  10. ^ MacKinnon, Leslie. "The NDP and the art of bouncing back". CBC. Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ Wherry, Aaron. "Does Brian Topp have the chops to lead the NDP?". Macleans. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  12. ^ Bélanger, Denis (November 10, 2011). "Brian Topp, un Longueuillois dans le sang". Le Courrier du Sud (in French) (Longueuil, Quebec: Quebecor Media). Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Topp pushed onto national stage in midst of 'heartbreaking' leadership setback". The Hill Times Online. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c "Brian Topp: From the print shop to Parliament". CTV News. September 24, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2011. 
  15. ^ Sobol, John. "Footbag/AKI/Hackeysack". The Media League. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c d Bryden, Joan (August 23, 2011). "Top adviser Topp is front-runner to succeed Layton". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved August 23, 2011. 
  17. ^ "The contenders". National Post. August 24, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  18. ^ Galloway, Gloria (August 23, 2011). "Who's likely to succeed Jack Layton at NDP helm?". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved August 23, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b c Taber, Jane (August 27, 2011). "Who is NDP leadership contender Brian Topp?". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved August 27, 2011. 
  20. ^ a b Smith, Joanna (February 25, 2011). "NDP leadership: Brian Topp went to Saskatchewan to learn politics". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  21. ^ Olive, David. "Brian Topp, leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
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  23. ^ Harper, Tim (August 25, 2011). "Who can carry the Layton torch?". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  24. ^ Holman, Sean (June 29, 2011). "Layton strategist Brian Topp to manage NDP's B.C. campaign". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
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  27. ^ Radia, Andy (August 22, 2012). "Jack Layton reached out to Canadian youth like no other federal party leader". Yahoo! News. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  28. ^ Hebert, Chantal (December 11, 2011). "Bloc's new leader could give NDP its biggest battle". Toronto Star. Retrieved December 11, 2011. 
  29. ^ a b Mickleburgh, Rod (September 25, 2011). "Topp's NDP campaign tactics border on bullying, professor warns – The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
  30. ^ O'Niel, Peter (December 6, 2011). "Undecided voters may hold key to next NDP leader". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved December 19, 2011. 
  31. ^ McConnel, Colin (February 21, 2012). "NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp: ‘We want to win for a purpose’". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  32. ^ Rodrigues, Hugo (March 12, 2012). "Topp emphasizes NDP roots in Brantford stop". Brantford Expositor. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 
  33. ^ Topp, Brian. "What the NDP is all about: Social democracy, and a more equal Canada". Retrieved January 10, 2012. 
  34. ^ Topp, Brian. "Topp proposes plan to restore balance to Canada's tax system". Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  35. ^ Wherry, Aaron (September 22, 2011). "Israel, Palestine and Brian Topp". Maclean's. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  36. ^ Topp, Brian. "TOPP RELEASES PLAN TO RESTORE CONFIDENCE TO GOVERNMENT". Retrieved January 10, 2012. 
  37. ^ Topp, Brian. "TOPP RELEASES PLAN TO STRENGTHEN THE NDP THROUGHOUT CANADA". Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  38. ^ Topp, Brian. "TOPP RELEASES PLAN TO PUT THE ENVIRONMENT AT THE HEART OF THE ECONOMY". Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  39. ^ Topp, Brian. "Brian's commitments to the arts and culture community". Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  40. ^ Topp, Brian. "Topp Calls For National Child Nutrition Program, Expanded Pharmacare Coverage in Major Initiative Aimed at Supporting For Families". Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  41. ^ Topp, Brian. "TOPP LAYS OUT PLAN TO CREATE JOBS, SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESS". Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
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  44. ^ Galloway, Gloria (January 6, 2012). "Topp lands Calvert's support as NDP rivals burnish union credentials". The Globe & Mail. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
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  47. ^ Galloway, Gloria (October 12, 2011). "United Steelworkers endorse Brian Topp for NDP leader". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  48. ^ Galloway, Gloria (September 30, 2011). "Davies backs Topp as Cullen enters growing field". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
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  51. ^ "Alexandre Boulerice donne son appui à Brian Topp". Blogue d'Alexandre Boulerice. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
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  53. ^ "McGill student who worked for Mulcair now endorses Topp.". October 31, 2011. 
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  55. ^ "New endorsement from Quebec: MP Sana Hassainia switches support to Brian Topp". Brian March 14, 2012. 
  56. ^ Naumetz, Tim (September 20, 2011). "Ottawa MP Dewar set to run for NDP leadership: sources". The Hill Times. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
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  63. ^ Oneill, Peter (September 2, 2011). "NDP split over plan to end special clout of unions". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved September 12, 2011. 
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  65. ^ Youds, Mike (28 October 2011). "Three area NDPers back Topp as leadership hopeful tours Kamloops". Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
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  76. ^
  77. ^ United Steelworkers. "United Steelworkers Endorse Brian Topp to Lead NDP." October 12, 2011.
  78. ^ "I love Brian Topp". YouTube. 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
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  85. ^ "Mulcair, Topp to face off in final NDP ballot". CBC News. March 24, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
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  89. ^ "New firm combines BC's political foes". Capital Diary, Johnathon Fowlie's Vancouver Sun blog. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  90. ^ "List of Nominations". Samara. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  91. ^ Topp, Brian (July 1, 2011). "From Vancouver to Athens, sensible alternatives to conservative misrule". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved August 26, 2011. 

External links[edit]