The four candidates aiming to lead the federal NDP made their final pitches to party members on Sunday during a showcase event where they laid out their visions for the party and made their cases for why they are best to lead it.
It was the last chance for Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh to make their pitches to New Democrats before voting begins Monday.
They each had 22 minutes for their presentations at the Hamilton Convention Centre in an event that capped off months of campaigning, fundraising, debating, soliciting endorsements and selling memberships.
Caron, a Quebec MP elected in 2011, spent a portion of his speech talking about the need for the NDP to regain its strength in his home province, saying that it is key to success in the next election. He called himself the right leader to build that support.
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 one of those supporters, Pierre Nantel, who on Saturday said he didn't think Singh, a Sikh, could connect effectively with Quebec voters because he wears a turban. Nantel suggested that Quebecers don't like leaders who wear religious symbols.
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 to focus on Quebec and offer Canadians a detailed and progressive agenda. The party also needs to provide a clear contrast to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"Substance over flashy socks and authenticity over empty slogans," said Caron.
He said Trudeau broke his promise to Canadians on electoral reform and 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 and that he's the leader to do it.
In his showcase, he portrayed himself as a fighter who will take on Trudeau in the House of Commons. "People need a leader in Ottawa who will fight for them but who will build with them," said Angus.
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. Angus's speech struck an inspirational tone, aimed at energizing the party's base and beyond.
"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."
Singh talks values, addresses racial profiling
Singh, an outsider to the federal NDP scene, surrounded himself on stage with a large crowd of supporters after several MPs said why they are endorsing him.
He shared personal details of his upbringing and his family's financial struggles and also discrimination he's faced.
"Growing up with brown skin, long hair and a funny sounding name meant I faced some challenges," the Ontario MPP said, adding he's been stopped by police simply because of the colour of his skin. He promised if he was prime minister that he would implement a federal ban on racial profiling.
Singh, a lawyer before entering politics, said his personal experiences with racial injustice and economic challenges drive him to work to end all forms of injustice.
He addressed the video that went viral of him being confronted by an angry anti-Muslim protester at a recent rally. He said his campaign has been about "championing the politics of love to fight the growing politics of hate."
He also made reference to Nantel's comments, saying he's not trying to convince people to accept his turban and beard but rather to convince voters that he shares their values as a progressive social democrat. He said in French he wants to assure people that his spiritual beliefs do not conflict with those values.
Singh led the way in fundraising and in his speech he touted the thousands of new members he signed up during the race. He pointed to that as evidence for why he is best positioned to broaden the party's support and lead it in 2019.
"Think about what we've been able to do done in a few short months. Now imagine what we can build together in two years," he said.
He outlined four priority policy areas he'd like the party to tackle: inequality, climate change, electoral reform and reconciliation. He pointed to his proposals on basic income guarantees and measures to protect workers as examples of how he would address those issues
Singh has said that if he wins, he won't seek a seat in the House of Commons right away and instead will travel around Canada. Ashton and Angus have been critical of that position, saying the party needs a leader in Ottawa.
Results revealed in 2 weeks
The candidates, and NDP members, are anxious for this long leadership race to replace Tom Mulcair to be over. They say they've been in a holding pattern and are eager to get a new leader in place to take on Trudeau and new Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
They will have to wait two more 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.
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