08/02/2016 11:29 EDT | Updated 08/02/2016 12:59 EDT

Cheri DiNovo Quits NDP Leadership Race Amid Health Troubles

"My focus will be on my health."

The only declared candidate for the federal NDP leadership is dropping out because of health concerns.

Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo announced in a statement Tuesday that she has suffered two small strokes in recent weeks. After consulting with her family and staff, she has decided to withdraw from the race to replace Thomas Mulcair.

Ontario New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo announces her candidacy for leadership of the federal NDP in Toronto on June 7, 2016. (Photo: Christopher Katsarov/CP)

"For at least the next month or so my focus will be on my health, so that I'll be able to return to Queen's Park in the fall," she said in the statement. "Anyone who has had a stroke will know what a terrifying ordeal it can be."

DiNovo, a longtime advocate for issues affecting the marginalized and, in particular the LGBTQ community, has represented the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park since 2006. She joined the federal leadership race in June.

Her statement touched on her push to see the NDP move further left to become the kind of party its founders envisioned — "a Democratic Socialist party." DiNovo was sharply critical of Mulcair for, in her view, shifting the party too much to the centre to try to win government for the first time. She called for him to step down in the lead-up to a leadership vote that saw him rejected as leader.

Grassroots 'will not be silenced'

"The dream of a national party that embraces both democratic socialism, climate justice, anti-racism, the UN declaration on indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S rights, childcare now, pharmacare, free tuition and a truly progressive tax structure is still very much alive," she said. "Those who represent the grass roots of the NDP and those progressives who want the NDP to represent them from across the country will not be silenced."

Last month, DiNovo publicly supported members of Toronto's Black Lives Matter for protesting during the Toronto Pride parade.

DiNovo said she is confident a candidate will emerge who will put principles at the forefront.

"I am so sorry that it cannot be me but this was never about me anyway, it is about the principles and values of the brave souls who penned the Regina Manifesto and their legacy that so many still share."

'The only move left is to go left'

DiNovo told The Huffington Post Canada in April that federal New Democrats need an inspiring leader in the mold of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who gave former secretary of state Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the Democratic presidential contest.

"The only move left is to go left,” she said, adding it was important for the NDP to be a "true alternative" to the governing Liberals.

"We've seen the Liberal Party go from third to first in a dramatic way in the last election. There's no reason we can't do that too," she said. "But we have to have the policies that actually ring with people's needs."

The NDP's move to the centre has been going on for a long time, she said, and needs to stop.

"We shouldn't be all about winning, we should be all about principle," DiNovo said.

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