NDP’s leadership candidates make final pitches in Sunday showcase

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After months of campaigning, selling memberships, raising money, soliciting endorsements and debates held across the country, the NDP leadership race is finally at its end.

The four candidates — Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh — are taking part Sunday in what the party is calling a Leadership Showcase. Each contender has 22 minutes to make a presentation to a room full of New Democrats in Hamilton and the event will be livestreamed for members to watch across the country.

The pressure is on for the candidates as they try to convince members they are the best choice to rebuild the party after its crushing defeat in the 2015 election.

Quebec MP Caron was the first to make his case for why he should lead the party. After introductory speeches from supporters he spent a portion of his speech talking about the need for the NDP to regain its strength in his home province, saying that is key to success in the next election.

Caron’s strategy to win Quebec

“When we win in Quebec, we win seats all across the country because then, we become a real progressive alternative everywhere in Canada,” said Caron.

He also addressed the comments made by fellow Quebec MP Pierre Nantel on Saturday when Nantel said he didn’t think Singh, a Sikh, could connect effectively with Quebec voters because he wears a turban.

Caron, who has Nantel’s support in the race, rejected that notion.

“Jagmeet, you have a place in our party and you have a place in my Quebec,” he said.

Caron said to win the 2019 election the NDP needs focus, not only on Quebec, but also on offering a detailed and progressive agenda to Canadians and also on “winning back progressives by providing a clear contrast to Trudeau’s Liberals: substance over flashy socks, and authenticity over empty slogans.”

Caron pitched himself as the leader who can grow support in Quebec and build bridges among Canada’s communities.

He took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying he broke his promise to Canadians on electoral reform. Caron promised a NDP government would make that its number one priority.

Angus’s plan to reconnect with grassroots

Next up was northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus. He’s emphasized throughout his campaign that the party needs to reconnect with its grassroots.

In his showcase, he portrayed himself as a fighter who will take on Trudeau in the House of Commons.

He promised to be a partner and ally for Indigenous communities and fight for their issues in Parliament. “Reconciliation, it’s not a hashtag,” he said. “It has to be made real for this generation of children right now.”

He also promised to advocate for students and seniors to help make life more affordable.

“Leadership isn’t about the leader. It’s about giving people a reason to believe that they truly do have the power to make change,” said Angus, who was elected as an MP in 2004. “This is the work I have done my whole life.”

Ashton defends progressive politics

When Ashton took to the stage she laid out some of her policy proposals, including a national child care system, tuition-free post-secondary education and she made it clear she is opposed to pipelines.

In a video presentation and in her speech the Manitoba MP talked of building a movement, one for economic, social and environmental justice.

“Bold progressive politics is smart politics,” said Ashton, who is running for leader for the second time. She also ran in 2012.

Ashton, 35, said people in her generation will be the largest voting group in 2019 and that millennials are “one of the most progressive generations in history.” She said Trudeau promised young voters real change and that he hasn’t delivered.

“He lied,” she stated, adding he’s broken one promise after another. She took sharp aim at Trudeau.

“Enjoy being prime minister while it lasts,” she told Trudeau. “In the next election I know you are going to try and recycle your promises, you may even take a few more selfies. But Canadians know that only the NDP will bring real change.”

The showcases could help undecided members, including MP Nathan Cullen, make up their minds. He told reporters at the NDP caucus meetings that he’s struggling with whom to pick.

Results revealed in 2 weeks

NDP caucus

NDP MPs Ruth Ellen Brosseau and Daniel Blaikie speak to reporters at the party’s caucus meetings in Hamilton on Sept.17, 2017. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC News)

The candidates say they’re feeling good about their campaigns and how the race played out and they’re excited for it to come to a conclusion. They will have to wait two weeks to find out the results of the first and maybe only round of voting, which begins Monday. Members can mail in their ballots or vote online, ranking the candidates by preference.

The ranked ballot means candidates, if not someone’s first choice, are aiming to be their second. The results will be revealed Oct.1 and if no one gets a majority of votes further rounds will be held. About 124,600 members are eligible to vote.

Some NDP MPs have said they’ve been in a holding pattern in Parliament while the party decides on a new leader and they are anxious to get one in place so they can better tackle Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and show Canadians that the NDP would be a better alternative for government in the 2019 election.

National caucus chair Daniel Blaikie said Sunday morning that the showcases will be a chance for Canadians to see the future NDP leader and imagine him or her as the next prime minister.

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NDP’s leadership candidates make final pitches in Sunday showcase

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