Atamanenko undecided on leadership question

Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko hasn’t made up his mind yet who to support in the federal New Democrat leadership race.

Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko hasn’t made up his mind yet who to support in the federal New Democrat leadership race.

Atamanenko encouraged Peter Julian to seek the position, but Julian has since ruled himself out. Eight candidates have stepped forward, including former party president Brian Topp, who visited the area this week and counts the support of both Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall and Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy.

Atamanenko says Topp is “very knowledgable, experienced, and eloquent,” but he’s waiting to hear what the other candidates have to say before choosing which one to back.

He’s not sure if any others will visit West Kootenay before the new leader is named March 24 to succeed the late Jack Layton — so far no one else has approached him.

Asked what he would like to see in a leader, however, Atamanenko said he wants someone with “a direct vision, who is very strong on our sovereignty. That to me is really important.”

He also wants someone who “understands rural Canada” and is a bridge-builder.

“No one will ever be like Jack, but someone who can bring people together and work within our party to make sure we’re united yet all have a voice,” he said.

Atamanenko added fluent bilingualism is a must, since so many New Democrat MPs now hail from Quebec.