Angus cranks up message on need for NDP leader to have seat in Commons
Leadership contender Charlie Angus speaks during NDP's Leadership Showcase in Hamilton, Ont. on Sunday September 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, September 18, 2017 1:40PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 18, 2017 4:44PM EDT
OTTAWA -- NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus marked Monday's return of Parliament by stressing the importance of his party's next leader having immediate access to the House of Commons -- a pointed jab at fellow hopeful Jagmeet Singh.
Singh, who sits in the Ontario legislature, has suggested he won't seek a federal seat right away if elected federal NDP leader -- a scenario Angus said he believes should disqualify his rival from seeking to become prime minister in 2019.
"I was surprised that Jagmeet said he didn't think he needed to be in Parliament until 2019," Angus said Monday in an interview. "That's his choice ... my focus is Parliament, what we are going to do there and the building on the ground from that."
It will be up to party members to decide whether they want a leader who can square off right away with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the party has already waited long enough, he added.
In April 2016, some six months after their 2015 election drubbing, NDP members soundly rejected the long-term leadership of Tom Mulcair, sparking the current leadership race. Mulcair opted to stay on until a replacement could be named.
Singh, whose campaign has been gaining prominence in recent weeks, said last month he'd prefer to seek a federal seat in the next general election, giving him more time to reach out to Canadians in various parts of the country.
He likened the approach to that of former NDP leader Jack Layton, who became leader of the party in 2003 but did not run for a Commons seat until the federal election the following year.
"I would be happy to spend the time while I am not a sitting member to campaign across the country, to get to know the issues, to get know the different ridings ... spending that time speaking with people, reaching out to them," Singh said at the time.
"I would run for a seat in 2019."
Singh did, however, leave the door open to seeking a seat sooner, saying he'd be "open to hearing more advice" on how to proceed.
Angus, who was elected in 2004, said Layton's situation was different because he was in charge of a smaller caucus of MPs.
He also said Trudeau has already benefited enormously from the fact both the NDP and Conservatives had to deal with leadership races since the last election, adding the Tories are now starting to plan and test their electoral message under Andrew Scheer.
"You have to be able to have that back and forth between the leaders," Angus said.
"They have to be able to confront each other. It is also a training ground. Parliament is where you try out and you see how you stand up to a sitting prime minister and I'm looking forward to that."
For his part, Singh has garnered the most support from NDP caucus members, with 10 MPs lining up behind him including his latest nod from B.C. MP Sheila Malcolmson.
Quebec MP Guy Caron and Manitoba MP Niki Ashton are also running for their party's top job.
NDP faithful can now vote online, with the first ballot results to be revealed on Oct. 1 in Toronto. A candidate must attain at least 50-plus-one per cent of the ballots to win or a subsequent round will ensue.
The ballot is preferential, meaning voters can rank candidates in their preferred order.