Former teacher to pharmacist: Meet the NDP leadership candidates
Matthew Coutts, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 19, 2012 7:34AM EDT
Members of the federal NDP choose a successor to Jack Layton at the end of the week, stamping their party with the face of a new leader who will lead the Official Opposition.
Seven leadership hopefuls remain in contention, running the gamut from a Nova Scotian pharmacist and a former Ontario teacher to a young politician from northern Manitoba and a four-time elected party stalwart from British Columbia.
The presumed frontrunners are a behind-the-scenes party president and a francophone deputy leader, battling the pack for support from members of the party.
Each candidate has their own goals and visions, and holds high hopes for the party that assumed Official Opposition status on the back of Layton's personal popularity. But only one can be the next leader of Canada's New Democrats.
The canadidates are described below, including the federal riding they represent or role they play, their background, key platforms as well as the major endorsements they have received.
Representing: Churchill, Manitoba
Ashton is from Thompson, Man., and was first elected MP of Churchill in 2008 and re-elected in 2011. She has acted as the party's post-secondary and youth critic as well as its community development critic. She currently sits as chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women. She says she was inspired to join politics by Jack Layton, and believes a party leader should take his or her cues from the rank and file.
Key platforms: Ashton is pushing for the creation of a Crown corporation to produce generic drugs, and the decriminalization of marijuana. She is also focused on improving the economy of rural Canada.
Key endorsements: NDP MPs who have endorsed her: Carol Hughes, Francine Raynault, Jean-Francois Larose, Francois Choquette.
Other key endorsements: BC MLA Michael Sather, Manitoba Deputy Premier Eric Robinson.
Representing: Skeena-Bulkley Valley, British Columbia
Cullen grew up in Toronto and was a development worker in Africa and South America before joining politics. He has represented Skeena-Bulkey Valley since 2004, winning four consecutive elections. He is the former NDP environment and natural resources critic and the current chair of the Commons committee on ethics. Cullen is married and has two sons.
Key platforms: Cullen has proposed joining forces with the Liberals in the next election and establishing a proportional representation system. He wants higher taxes for oil and gas companies and an increase to the general corporate tax rate. He has championed a national transit strategy.
Key endorsements: Cullen has rallied support from a collection of provincial leaders, including Manitoba MLA Jim Rondeau, former B.C. environment minister Joan Sawicki, as well as university professor Lynn McDonald and artist Roy Henry Vickers.
Representing: Ottawa Centre, Ontario
Dewar was born in Ottawa to a mother who was city mayor. He acted as an aid worker in Nicaragua before returning to Canada as a public school teacher. He was first elected to Parliament in 2006 and served as foreign affairs critic. He is married with two children. Dewar is improving his French as part of his leadership bid.
Key platforms: Dewar has released a complete and costed platform covering topics from freshwater resources to foreign affairs. He would create a national infrastructure program, move toward establishing a guaranteed annual income, boost foreign aid and give tax incentives to small businesses.
Key endorsements: Dewar has a strong collection of NDP MPs backing his candidacy, including veterans Charlie Angus, Irene Mathyssen, Linda Duncan, Claude Gravelle, as well as freshly elected party members Helene Laverdiere and Hoang Mai. He has also rallied support among provincial leaders, including Manitoba MLA Dave Chomiak and Ontario MPP Rosario Marchese, as well as former Toronto mayor John Sewell and human rights advocate Maher Arar.
Representing: Outremont, Quebec
One of two presumptive frontrunners, Mulcair was born in Ottawa and raised in Laval, Que., where he was a provincial representative from 1994 to 2007. Mulcair moved to federal politics that year and was named joint Deputy Leader of the NDP and Jack Layton's Quebec lieutenant. He is the party's house leader. He is married with two sons.
Key platforms: Mulcair is running on three key priorities – setting a cap-and-trade system for major greenhouse gas emitters, reforming the public pension system and promoting women's equality. He has also targeted affordable housing and transit funding.
Key endorsements: Forty-one MPs have backed Mulcair, including Robert Aubin, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, Robert Chisholm, Sana Hassainia and Marc-Andre Morin. His other key endorsements include author Michael Byers, New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy and former MP Ernie Epp.
Representing: Parkdale-High Park, Toronto, Ontario
Nash was first elected MP of Parkdale-High Park in 2006 and regained the seat in 2011, after losing a tight 2008 race to Liberal Gerard Kennedy. Nash sat as party president during her absence from Parliament Hill. Appointed finance critic by Jack Layton, Nash has pushed for job creation and green development. Nash is married with three children and was a labour negotiator before entering politics.
Key platforms: Nash plans to implement a proportional representation voting system and inspire non-voters to become engaged. She would also invest in affordable housing, elder care and pharmacare, and expand employment insurance.
Key endorsements: NDP MPs that have backed her candidacy include Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Randall Garrison, Laurin Liu, Elaine Michaud, Mike Sullivan and Deputy Speaker of the House Denise Savoie. Other key endorsements include Ontario MPPs Cheri DiNovo and Jonah Schein, former NDP leader Alexa McDonough, Toronto councillor Adam Vaughan, actress Sarah Polley.
Not a sitting Member of Parliament
Singh was born in Halifax and holds three degrees from Dalhousie University (chemistry, chemical engineering and pharmacy) as an MBA from Saint Mary's University. He works as a pharmacist in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S. Singh changed his name when he converted from Protestantism to Sikhism in 1996. He has served in the Canadian military reserves.
Key platforms: Singh has published three policy papers detailing his thoughts on Canadian entrepreneurs, health care and the environment. He would suggest a national pharmacare program he says would save the government $5.5 billion. He would also implement a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions.
Key endorsements: Singh does not mention any party endorsements on his campaign's official website. He has recently encouraged his supporters to mark Thomas Mulcair as their second choice.
President of federal NDP (on leave)
Topp was born in Longueuil, Que., and has lived in Ottawa, Montreal, Regina, Toronto and Vancouver. He graduated from McGill University before joining politics as an adviser, helping run major campaigns. Last summer, Topp was named president of the NDP – a role he has taken leave from during the leadership campaign. He is considered one of two presumptive favourites going into the convention. He is married and has two sons.
Key platform: Topp says the key to the NDP's continued growth is to establish a plan that is fiscally responsible. He has called for higher income taxes on wealthy Canadians and narrowing the income gap divide among Canadians.
Key endorsements: Topp has a cadre of NDP MPs endorsing his campaign, including chief whip Chris Charlton and veterans Jean Crowder and deputy leader Libby Davies. A host of MPs elected to the House last year have backed him as well, including Alexandre Boulerice, Kennedy Stewart and Charmaine Borg. Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent is also stumping for Topp.