OTTAWA — Two new candidates in the NDP leadership race wasted no time going toe-to-toe in their first appearance together Sunday at a leadership debate in Sudbury, Ont.
Pat Stogran, who acquired a reputation for being outspoken as the former federal veterans ombudsman, challenged Ontario politician Jagmeet Singh after he suggested "an act of love" is required to connect with Canadian voters.
"I think that what it takes ... to understand the realities of small and rural communities or communities that are isolated, it takes an act of love to understand that we are all in this together," Singh said.
Jagmeet Singh launches his bid for the federal NDP leadership in Brampton, Ont., on Monday.
"That our struggles are all united and the strength of Canada is when we understand we do far better when we are united."
"Love isn't enough," Stogran said. "What's your answer to it? How are you going to bring the voice of these people to Ottawa to speak up?"
Singh and Stogran are now among six official candidates looking to take over the party's top job in October — a decision set to be made by party members who will be required to rank their choices.
Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Ontario MP Charlie Angus, Quebec MP Guy Caron and B.C. MP Peter Julian are also in the running.
Angus: Time to talk to people feeling 'ripped off'
It is important to acknowledge Canadians don't trust politicians of any stripe, Angus said Sunday, adding the NDP has failed to effectively reach out to communities.
"Let's talk to people who are feeling disconnected and ripped off," Angus said. "People who are fighting for their pensions, people who don't have access to dental care. We've got to be the party that's got their back."
It is up to the New Democrats to show voters the party is willing to fight for them, he added.
"I'm grateful the Conservatives got their guy," he said. "Let's get down to our job."
Ashton compares Scheer to Trump
NDP leadership hopefuls were asked directly Sunday about Andrew Scheer, the new leader of the Conservative party.
For her part, Ashton said she is "very concerned" about Scheer's political agenda, pointing to Scheer's position on abortion and LGBTQ rights.
"This is what Trump-like politics and Trump-like ideas look like in our own country," she said.
Scheer resembles former prime minister Stephen Harper, Caron added.
Julian pushes opposition to pipelines
"He's not much ... different," he said. "He's playing the same base and ... we have to know exactly what that means for us and we do know because we fought those Conservatives ... in Parliament."
Julian said Sunday the NDP must be "bold and clear" on its policy positions as it looks to its future, adding this means speaking up on solutions to tackle climate change.
"This means stopping Mr. Trudeau's new raw bitumen pipelines," he said. "Our members want us to take a stand. I am opposed to them — period."
There are five other debates scheduled for the lengthy NDP race including in discussions in St. John's, Saskatoon, Victoria, Montreal, and Vancouver.
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