B.C. MP Peter Julian announces NDP leadership candidacy

B.C. MP Peter Julian announced his intention to run for leadership of the NDP Sunday, making him the first to come forward since the party voted to oust Thomas Mulcair and seek a new leader last spring.

New party leader is needed to replace Thomas Mulcair by fall 2017, but field is wide open

NDP MP Peter Julian announces he will run for the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party, during a news conference in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

B.C. MP Peter Julian has announced he will be running for leadership of the NDP, making him the first to come forward since the party voted to oust Thomas Mulcair and seek a new leader last spring.

Julian, the MP for New Westminster-Burnaby, emphasized growing inequality throughout his speech, citing the importance of a country "where no one is left behind." 

"It's time to make the priority regular folks rather than the rich and the well-connected," he said from his riding in New Westminster. 

His solution for bridging inequality between "the one per cent" and the least fortunate in Canada included ending tax breaks for the wealthy and shutting down tax havens. 

"My vision of the county, what we fight for, has to include a country where no matter how wealthy, how well connected, everyone pays their fair share of taxes."

Affordable housing was also a key part of Julian's speech, with a promise to build 250,000 homes in two to three years. 

NDP MP Peter Julian, right, and his wife Limei Tian listen as he's introduced before announcing he will run for the leadership of the federal NDP, during a news conference in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday Feb. 12, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

"No one should be forced to sleep outside. Everyone should have a home, everyone should have a roof to sleep under in this country," he said. 

To create jobs and strengthen the economy, Julian promised free post-secondary education for all Canadians and a return of the manufacturing sector instead of exporting raw resources like logs, minerals and bitumen.

He also opposed pipelines, aiming instead to create jobs by growing the renewable energy sector. 

"We need to start transitioning to clean energy like so many other countries are doing," he said. 

Julian was first elected in 2004 and has served as the party's critic for portfolios such as energy, natural resources and finance.​

The 53-year-old is fluently bilingual, having attended university in Quebec and served as the NDP's provincial secretary for that province in the 1990s.

'Water buffet'

Despite those credentials, UBC political scientist David Moscrop said he doubted Julian would be the kind of politician likely to lead the country.

"There isn't a lot of excitement around him. He doesn't seem to bring anything new and particularly interesting to the race," he said.

"If they want to win though, they need someone with a little bit of wow factor."

NDP MP Peter Julian speaks to reporters as he announces that he will step down as NDP House leader, on Parliament Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Moscrop referred to Julian and the other New Democrats known to be mulling leadership bids, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Ontario MP Charlie Angus, as "a water buffet" — not terribly appetizing.

"People now, like it or not, love the celebrity behind certain politicians," he said.

"We need someone a little more interesting if the NDP want a chance."

Instead, he suggested potential candidate Jagmeet Singh as a likely front runner — although Moscrop said Singh has only been "coy" about if he will run.

Singh was recently featured in GQ magazine as an "incredibly well-dressed rising star in Canadian politics" and on BuzzFeed as "the most stylish politician in Canada by like a million kilometres."

Media have noted Ontario NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh's stylish appearance. (Adam Litovitz)

Rebuilding the party

The next NDP leader's primary role will be to rebuild the party after last year's crushing electoral defeat.

The party has struggled with sagging support and flagging fundraising since the Liberal government was elected in October of 2015.

The most recent polls put the NDP's support at 15.9 per cent — less than half the support for the Conservative Party at 32.7 per cent and the Liberals at 39 per cent. 

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair listens to a speaker during the 2016 NDP Federal Convention in Edmonton on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (Codie McLachlan/Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party race is well underway, with 14 candidates having come forward so far

The vote on who will replace outgoing federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair will take place in fall 2017, the party's governing body decided.

Nominations for a leadership convention opened on July 2, 2016 and the new leader will be selected sometime between Sept. 17, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2017.