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NDP leadership: Charlie Angus has edge among NDP supporters, poll suggests

By Tim Naumetz      

'I’m very honoured,' Angus says in response to people urging him to run. It’s early days, though, with no candidates declared and a lack of consensus among Canadians.

'I’m getting lots of positive calls from across the country, and I’m very honoured,' said NDP MP Charlie Angus after being informed of the survey results. The Hill Times photograph by Chelsea Nash
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Northern Ontario New Democrat MP Charlie Angus has not yet declared an intention to run for the NDP leadership, but a new poll suggests the onetime folk singer and community activist has a slight edge on the only member of the party’s caucus who has confirmed consideration of a run, British Columbia MP Peter Julian.

Findings from a Forum Research poll listing five prominent NDP MPs, some of whom ran against Tom Mulcair when he won the party helm in 2012, also indicate two MPs, both of whom have said they won’t be running, happen to be a hair ahead of the other possible candidates in national elector preference and substantially ahead in their home provinces.

One NDP MP, though, cautioned that it’s too early to read the significance of poll results. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they preferred someone other than the five potential candidates listed, or didn’t know their preference for permanent leader of the party. The race has no declared candidates, though Mr. Julian stepped down from his House leader job last month to explore a bid.

Among New Democrat supporters polled, Mr. Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.) led, with 10 per cent of respondents who cited the NDP as their current vote preference saying Mr. Angus would make the best permanent leader of the party, followed closely by Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice, who was favoured by nine per cent of the respondents. These results have a margin of error of plus or minus 7.5 per cent.

“Well, I’m getting lots of positive calls from across the country, and I’m very honoured,” Mr. Angus said after being informed of the survey results.

“The issue of this race is about the renewal of our party, it’s where we’re going. And, you know, to even be mentioned in speculation, yeah, I’m honoured and I’m going to be playing my part in this, the road ahead, where do we go as a party?” he said.

“Whether I’m as a candidate or working on the campaign still remains to be seen, but this is a huge issue. It’s also a very exciting time for our party,” Mr. Angus said. “Right now, I’m really occupied with the issues on child equity in First Nations, but I’m honoured.”

The NDP leadership voting is scheduled to take place over a series of ballots beginning in September 2017, with a new permanent leader to be selected by Oct. 29. The race was sparked when Mr. Mulcair (Outremont, Que.), the current leader, lost a leadership review at a party convention in April.

As with polls sounding preferences in the early stages of the federal Conservative Party leadership contest now underway, a significant majority of respondents to the Forum survey, 74 per cent, either preferred none of the five MPs listed as best choice for a new permanent leader of the NDP (24 per cent) or did not know which person to support (50 per cent).

Nationally, the five prominent New Democrats were virtually neck and neck, with Mr. Boulerice (Rosemont-La Petite Patrie, Que.), who has ruled out a leadership run, the favourite for seven per cent of all respondents across the country and first pick for 26 per cent of Quebec respondents.

B.C. MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.) was favoured as the best choice to lead the party by six per cent of respondents nationally and 13 per cent of B.C. respondents. He has also said he’s decided not to run. Mr. Cullen placed third in the 2012 contest.

Mr. Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby, B.C.) was selected as best choice for two per cent of respondents to the Forum poll nationally and by four per cent of B.C. respondents.

Manitoba MP Niki Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Man.) who also ran for the party’s leadership in 2012, was the choice for five per cent of the respondents nationally and by nine per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Rounding out the five MPs listed, Mr. Angus tied Ms. Ashton, with five per cent support nationally.

In Ontario, Mr. Angus was favoured by nine per cent of respondents, compared to six per cent for Mr. Cullen, three per cent for Ms. Ashton and two per cent each for Mr. Boulerice and Mr. Julian.

Among NDP supporters, Mr. Cullen, first elected to the Commons in 2004, was favoured by six per cent of the respondents, as was Ms. Ashton. Four per cent of respondents who said they supported the NDP selected Mr. Julian, also first elected in 2004, as best choice for leader.

The Forum Research interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,474 voting-age Canadians, conducted Nov. 9 and 10, has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is larger, plus or minus 7.5 per cent, for the sample of 169 respondents who said NDP is their current vote preference.

For the larger provinces where more electors were sampled, however, the margin of error is smaller: 4.2 per cent in Ontario, 6.7 per cent in B.C. and 5.4 per cent in Quebec.

Quebec MP Guy Caron (Rimouski Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques, Que.) said it’s too early to read the significance of poll results, with “name recognition” the main criterion for elector choice.

“I expect the race to pick up maybe in January or February, eight or nine months before the vote, which seems to be the same timeline for the last leadership race,” Mr. Caron said.

“At this point any poll like this is based on name recognition, so Charlie Angus’ name is well known, Nathan as well, Alexandre; and it’s only normal,” he said.

MP Kennedy Stewart, chair of the NDP caucus, agreed it is early going, but said prospective candidates are looking for support.

“Nobody’s officially in the race. We hear people talking about it, we hear some phone calls around. I had a couple of phone calls myself. People are just probing,” Mr. Stewart (Burnaby South, B.C.) said.

tnaumetz@hilltimes.com

*Editor’s note: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Niki Ashton was the only female to run for the party leadership in 2012. In fact, former NDP MP Peggy Nash was also a leadership contender in 2012.

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