Former veterans’ om­buds­man en­ters NDP race

Stogran be­comes first non-MP to join cam­paign

Montreal Gazette - - NEWS - MARIE-DANIELLE SMITH

Former veterans’ om­buds­man Pat Stogran en­tered the fed­eral NDP lead­er­ship race Thurs­day with an im­pas­sioned ap­peal to "us com­mon­ers.”

Call­ing suc­ces­sive Lib­eral and Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments an en­trenched “Pol­i­tics Inc.,” Stogran said he be­lieves the NDP can of­fer an al­ter­na­tive to the “same old garbage.”

“Our lead­er­ship has been bur­den­ing us with quick, piece­meal and patch­work tem­po­rary fixes, and group­think that will def­i­nitely come back to bite our chil­dren in their col­lec­tive back­sides,” he said.

A re­tired colonel, Stogran served in the mil­i­tary for more than 30 years and was Canada’s first veterans af­fairs om­buds­man from 2007 to 2010. Though he said Thurs­day he was largely “apo­lit­i­cal” un­til now, he was crit­i­cal of Stephen Harper’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.

For the past five years, Stogran said, he’s been “schem­ing” and try­ing to fig­ure out how to “hold their feet to the fire” in Ot­tawa. He be­comes the fifth can­di­date, and the first non-MP, to en­ter the race.

In his an­nounce­ment Thurs­day morn­ing at an Ot­tawa ho­tel, Stogran talked about some of the same is­sues the other lead­er­ship can­di­dates have raised, fo­cus­ing on bro­ken prom­ises from Justin Trudeau’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment on indige­nous child wel­fare, elec­toral re­form and ethics.

He said the LEAP man­i­festo, a source of con­tro­versy in the party be­cause of its abo­li­tion­ist view on oil pipe­lines, is full of “great ideas.”

But it’s a “moun­tain of ideas,” he said. “When I was in the army — I’ll tell you a war story here — we did moun­tain ops train­ing. We learned how to climb moun­tains. You know how to climb a moun­tain? You don’t leap. You leap to your death. You have to climb one hand­hold at a time and make sure you’ve got a firm grip be­fore you reach to the next step. … We can­not get rid of pipe­lines to­mor­row.”

Like other can­di­dates, Stogran dis­likes free trade agree­ments, in­clud­ing the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

He also had strong words about Canada’s mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in the Mid­dle East, say­ing the coali­tion of which Canada is a part is “digging the hole deeper in Syria.”

On Canada-U.S. re­la­tions he said lit­tle, though he al­luded to Pierre Trudeau’s quote about get­ting into bed with an ele­phant.

“We’ve got to be very care­ful that we’re not flinch­ing and re­act­ing to ev­ery burp, fart and what­ever else that hap­pens,” he said. “I would say that the big­gest prob­lems we face here have been made in Canada and should be sorted out in Canada be­fore we start telling other coun­tries how to sort their prob­lems out.”

Stogran is up against four MP can­di­dates: B.C.’s Peter Ju­lian, Man­i­toba’s Niki Ash­ton, On­tario’s Char­lie An­gus and Que­bec’s Guy Caron. The Na­tional Post re­cently re­ported the On­tario NDP’s deputy leader Jag­meet Singh is mo­bi­liz­ing for a run, and union vet­eran Sid Ryan may throw his hat in, too.

The next of­fi­cial lead­er­ship de­bate is May 28 in Sud­bury, Ont. Party mem­bers will choose a new leader in Oc­to­ber.

OUR LEAD­ER­SHIP HAS BEEN BUR­DEN­ING US WITH QUICK, PIECE­MEAL ... FIXES.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

A re­tired colonel, Pat Stogran served in the Cana­dian mil­i­tary for more than three decades.

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