The five candidates hoping to lead the federal NDP aimed to distinguish themselves from the governing Liberals as much as from each other during Sunday’s leadership debate in St. John’s.
The field for the fourth debate of the campaign was Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Ontario MP Charlie Angus, Quebec MP Guy Caron and B.C. MP Peter Julian. Pat Stogran, the former veterans’ ombudsman, dropped out of the race earlier this month.
Asked about the Liberal government’s recent announcements on foreign affairs and national defence, Julian, Ashton and Singh argued that new spending on the military could be put to better use on other priorities. Caron and Singh said the federal government was not acting with sufficient independence from Donald Trump’s administration.
Both Julian and Ashton touted the recent gains of the British Labour party as inspiration. Caron, meanwhile, used his opening statement to press Angus, Julian and Ashton to be more specific about their policies. He also asked Singh to explain whether he was committed to the federal NDP regardless of whether he wins the leadership.
During a pair of rounds that allowed candidates to directly question each other, Julian and Ashton challenged Singh to take a definitive stance on the Trans Mountain pipeline, while Angus and Ashton questioned Caron’s proposal for a basic-income program. Angus also questioned the proposals that Julian and Ashton have made to eliminate all tuition fees.
There are four more debates scheduled in the race, including stops in Saskatoon, Victoria, Montreal and Vancouver.
NDP members will pick a new leader in the fall through a preferential, ranked ballot system. Voting will take place online and by mail.