03/23/2012 04:04 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT

NDP candidate Nathan Cullen: Party must work with others

Paul Dewar took advantage of his experience as an MP Friday as he urged New Democrats to choose him for the next leader, in a presentation that featured caucus colleagues and photos of his work as foreign affairs critic.

Letting his supporters do the talking, Dewar used half of the time allotted to him at the party's leadership convention for fellow MPs and others to tell party members why they should choose him.

After months of taking criticism over his French-language skills, Dewar had two Quebec MPs introduce him and then delivered much of his speech in his second language.

Standing behind a podium, Dewar gave an energetic speech, telling members he has the experience, the passion and the appeal for voters across Canada.

He pointed to problems like housing conditions in the poor northern community of Attawapiskat and seniors struggling to make ends meet.

"This race is about these people. It's about the real majority, left out by the Conservatives," he said.

"We may have lost Jack [Layton], but we must not lose our way. And that's why I'm here today."

The lead-up to his 10-minute speech featured his foreign affairs interest and included a short video by human rights activist Maher Arar, who became a household name when he was detained and tortured in Syria. Dewar was the party's foreign affairs critic before he entered the race, but had to give up that role under the rules set for the leadership contestants.