NDP Leadership Race Heats Up

Only four contenders now stand for the leadership of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Jagmeet Singh, Niki Ashton, Charlie Angus, and Guy Caron are all vying for leadership of the party after a leadership review following the 2015 election decided Tom Mulcair should step down. Each of the four candidates are unique in their upbringing and have proven to inject life into an otherwise dry race.  

Jagmeet Singh, the only of the four who is not a federal politician, served as a human rights lawyer and Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario before declaring his candidacy.  He is known for his large social media following, his suit design skills that led him to be featured in a GQ article, and his open acceptance of his Sikh faith. Critics have pointed to this as problematic in Quebec because of the province’s focus on secularism and the party’s previous success in the province in the 2011 elections.  

Niki Ashton, MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, has been an MP since 2008 and a social justice advocate in Canada’s parliament. She has served as the NDP critic for Post-Secondary Education and Youth, Aboriginal Affairs, Status of Women, & Jobs, Employment and Workforce Development. Her stance on Quebec retaining a ‘distinctive’ status within Canada has been the cause of conversation, and her focus on inequality and climate change have garnered her support among young voters.  

Guy Caron, an MP from Quebec, has been considered one of the two front-runners in the race. His platform has focused on building a “progressive and sustainable” country, including a basic income, a $15/hr minimum wage, a carbon tax, and advocating at the international level for the rights of climate migrants. Angus has tried to position himself as the “climate justice” candidate, with a large section of his campaign website dedicated to various initiatives he would pursue as NDP leader.  

Charlie Angus, MP from Ontario, is considered the other frontrunner of the race. A prominent figure in party circles, he represents a northern Ontario riding and is currently the NDP critic for Indigenous and Northern Affairs. His experiences working with indigenous peoples have informed parts of his platform, including the establishment of an Indigenous Children’s Ombudsperson, dismantling Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to devolve programs directly to indigenous communities, create a Crown corporation to push sustainable development, and creating a new electoral system that respects First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.

 The race commenced with little fanfare in July 2017. In the beginning, the race included Cheri DiNovo, Peter Julian, and Pat Stogran. Each gradually withdrew their candidacy as the race centred around the four still in. Debates in St. John’s, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver exposed various candidates to criticism around language abilities, experience, and commitment to the party.  

Candidates are required to obtain 50+1% of the vote from NDP party members. The first ballot is on September 17th, and if necessary the second and third ballots will be held on October 8th and 15th. Mainstreet polling as of August 3-7 had Charlie Angus as the front runner, but a recent CBC article citing an increase of nearly 83,000 party members has put Jagmeet Singh in a position to win.   

The final debate will be held on September 17th in Hamilton, Ontario.