NDP LEADERSHIP RACE HEATS UP IN QUEBEC
The New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) is holding its leadership elections between October 1-15, 2017. The party is selecting a leader to replace Tom Mulcair, and challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party and Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party. Over the summer, the race has narrowed down to four candidates: Niki Ashton, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Churchill, Manitoba; Charlie Angus, MPP for Timmins, Ontario; Guy Caron, MPP for Rimouski- Neigette-Témiscouata-les Basques, Quebec; and Jagmeet Singh, MPP for Bramalea- Gore-malton, Ontario.
The race has largely focused on how to win back the support that was won in the 2011 federal elec-- tion, and subsequently lost to the Liberals in 2015. A huge portion of that loss was suffered in Quebec, where Tom Mulcair’s opposition to Liberal Bill 62 was perceived negatively. Bill 62 is a bill put forward by the Provincial Liberals of Quebec to ban the wearing of face coverings by governmental employees in the province. The bill has been widely described as Islamophobic, as it would target Muslim women who wear the burqa or the niqab.
As the race moves into Quebec the only Quebecois candidate, Caron, has announced his support of the bill. Ashton initially suggested that she too supports it, later tempering her statement after receiving substantial criticism from her base. Angus, meanwhile, has stated that the matter must go to the courts, and that the government cannot infringe upon religious freedoms. Singh, who is Sikh and wears a turban, has not yet commented on the issue.
Polls in Quebec show a massive loss of interest in the NDP, with 68 per cent of the population describing themselves as “not interested” in a poll conducted by Léger. However, debates over religious freedoms are often explosive in Quebec, and the candidate who impresses the most in the province could generate considerable support for the party nationally.