The loss of federal opposition leader Jack Layton has changed the trajectory of the NDP and with the field wide open for a new leader, the direction of the new NDP is unclear. Yet there has been no lack of potential leadership candidates with the list including deputy leader of NDP Libby Davies, Canadian ambassador to US Gary Doer and interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel.
Though no one will ever be able to fill Layton’s shoes, party faithful hope someone will at least be able make their own mark and distinguish themselves as a leader to be reckoned with.
BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko has one hat he’d like to throw into the ring, Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian.
“I believe that he has the qualifications to do the job and I believe he has a vision for this country,” said Atamanenko “I believe that Peter believes that Canada is a sovereign nation, that we should be forming partnerships with other nations such as United States and that we shouldn’t just sign any agreement for the sake of signing agreements.”
Also weighing heavily in Atamanenko’s decision to encourage Julian to bid for opposition leader is his colleague’s experience. Julian holds the distinction of being the most active MP from western Canada in the 40th Parliament and the third most active MP out of 308 MPs for private member’s legislation. Neighbouring MP Kennedy Stewart called Julian one of the most experienced members of caucus.
Any future opposition leader will have to walk a tight rope between strengthening the existing bond with Quebec and isolating the rest of Canada. Atamanenko believes Julian’s connections to Quebec — he lived in Quebec for 13 years and served as the federal party’s provincial secretary — would eliminate this problem.
“He’s fluently bilingual he’s lived in Quebec, he’s lived in other parts of Canada,” said Atamanenko. “He understands Quebec and how it relates to other parts of the country as a result… I just believe that Peter can work to hold this country together and move us forward into the 21st century.”
While Atamanenko will endorse Julian if he runs, local MLA Michelle Mungall has already endorsed early favourite NDP President Brian Topp.
When asked why he favoured Peter Julian over Topp, Atamanenko said, “Brian, I don’t know him that well… I’ve had the privilege of working with Peter over the last five years. I’ve seen him in action as a parliamentarian… I’ve seen him in action as he supports the whole concept of food sovereignty and the Canadian Wheat Board among other things. I know him probably much better than any of the other candidates.”
Though he has yet to make any formal announcement, Atamanenko feels Julian is seriously considering taking a stab at running for opposition leader
“He is weighing this options very, very carefully,” said the local MP. “This commitment is not a light one, it involves raising money, it involves getting your family on board… so he’s weighing the options very carefully. We’ll have his decision very soon.”
Julian has until January 24 to make the call.