Toronto MP Peggy Nash announced her bid for the federal NDP leadership on Friday, joining six other confirmed candidates to replace the late Jack Layton.

"This is a very critical moment; the choices we make matter; the nature and quality of our leadership matters," Nash, who represents the west Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, said at a news conference at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen Street West.

Nash said improving the economy will be a key part of her leadership platform.

"I believe the next prime minister of Canada must be able to do two key things," she said. "First, she is going to have to make sure that our economy works to the benefit of all Canadians, not just the few at the top. But secondly in order to do that, she is going to have to be able to keep the Canadian economy stable and make it stronger.

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"The present prime minister does not seem to understand this."

Nash was the party's finance critic, but has to give up the portfolio so she can run for the leadership. B.C. MP Peter Julian has been named as her replacement on the file.

Inspired by Occupy movement

Nash said she has been inspired by the Occupy Toronto protesters who have spent two weeks camping in a downtown park.

"I've spoken to those who have gathered at St. James Park," she said. Their commitment is inspiring. Theirs are not vague and unfocused concerns. They arise from very real crises, crises that every one of us are facing. Crises of social injustice and wild inequality."

Nash is the first woman to ender the NDP leadership race. Other confirmed contenders include:

  • Veteran party strategist Brian Topp.
  • NDP Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair.
  • MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre).
  • MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley).
  • MP Roméo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou).
  • Nova Scotia pharmacist Martin Singh.

MP Robert Chisholm, a former leader of the Nova Scotia NDP, has scheduled an announcement for Sunday, when he is widely expected to declare his candidacy.

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel took over from Layton when he stepped down due to health reasons in July.

Layton died Aug. 22 following a second cancer diagnosis.

Nash said she will run a campaign that is consistent with the ideals of Layton, who in the May federal election led the party to Official Opposition status for the first time in the party's history.

"Jack always believed in teamwork and respect. Most of our caucus is filled with members that Jack recruited and  I am running in that spirit."