NDP candidates test out French-language chops

QUEBEC — The NDP leadership candidates had their French-language skills put to the test at a leadership debate Sunday in Quebec, where the party is hoping to regain the momentum that led to its official opposition status.

QUEBEC — The NDP leadership candidates had their French-language skills put to the test at a leadership debate Sunday in Quebec, where the party is hoping to regain the momentum that led to its official opposition status.

There were few heated exchanges in the debate, aside from a few notable jabs by party strategist Brian Topp to fellow leadership candidates Paul Dewar and Martin Singh.

Topp himself acknowledged the cordial tone of the debate, held before a few hundred people in a Quebec City hall.

“If there’s one thing we learned from the Liberals, it’s that we shouldn’t have a civil war in our party,” Topp told reporters afterward. “We try to not be too mean to each other.”

While the focus of the debate was Canada’s role in the world, there weren’t many clear disagreements over foreign policy as some of the candidates struggled to express themselves in French.

French skills are expected to be an important factor in the leadership race, with the party losing ground in opinion polls in Quebec since grabbing 59 seats in last May’s election.

The leadership debate was the first to take place in French, with only a brief segment in English during the 90-minute session.

NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair and former party president Brian Topp appeared most comfortable, while Ottawa MP Paul Dewar had trouble at times.

Dewar faced questions from Topp over his decision to appoint fellow NDP MP Charlie Angus, another anglophone, as deputy leader of his campaign.

Toronto MP Peggy Nash also took aim at Dewar over the issue, stressing the party should recognize the support it received from Quebec in the last election.

“It is for him to determine whether (the appointment of Angus) is respectful to Quebec, but I think the diversity of our country is very important,” she told reporters afterward.

Dewar shot back at Topp saying he doesn’t even have a seat in the House of Commons, and questioned what he would do if he lost in a by-election.

Mulcair, meanwhile, played up his Quebec ties right from the start, recalling his experience as a cabinet minister in the provincial Liberal government before making the jump to federal politics.

With Romeo Saganash dropping out on Friday, there are now seven candidates in the running to succeed Jack Layton.

The other candidates are British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen, businessman Martin Singh, and Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, the youngest candidate in the race, who has a solid grasp of French.

Speaking with reporters, Topp acknowledged the NDP could do more in Quebec, saying the party should have taken a stronger stance when the Conservative government appointed an auditor general who can’t speak French.

Topp said the new leader will have to work hard to prove to Quebecers they made the right choice in the last election.

“We will have three years to do the job of four years,” he said. “It’s tough, but that’s the consequence of losing your leader.”

This was the third of six debates before a March convention in Toronto, where the party will select Layton’s permanent successor.

Just Posted

Crown may seek dangerous offender status for 2015 Christmas Day stabber

Psychiatric assessment being done of man sentenced In November 2017 to seven years for manslaughter

128 Flags of Remembrance now flying in Sylvan Lake until Nov. 12

Centennial Park boasts 128 Canadian flags to honour 128,000 Canadians killed and missing in action.

Fall Food Drive set for Saturday in Red Deer

Organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Red Deer is counting down to CFR 45

Jointly hosted by Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce and Westerner Park

Mirror fire department still short volunteers

Fire department will close if volunteers can’t be found

Live bear cam: Let the fishing begin

Watch bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park catch their dinner live.

Washington wants Canada to improve spill plan for U.S. spur of Trans Mountain

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s Department of Ecology wants the Canadian government to… Continue reading

National Transportation Safety Board to determine cause of Air Canada close call

Video captured the moment that an Air Canada jet flew off course… Continue reading

Edmonton public schools to review its ‘books to weed out’ list due to concerns

Edmonton Public Schools says it’s taking down its book review site after… Continue reading

Former U.S. ambassador steps up calls to get Americans to vote ahead of midterms

OTTAWA — A former U.S. ambassador to Canada is taking the battle… Continue reading

Canada aiming for the moon, and beyond, with new space technology efforts

OTTAWA — With an eye on future lunar exploration, Canada’s space agency… Continue reading

Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as… Continue reading

Tiger Woods winning adds to Ryder Cup buzz

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Already the most intense competition in golf, the Ryder… Continue reading

Most Read