OTTAWA — NDP MP Peter Julian quit the party's leadership race Thursday, citing low fundraising numbers.
"One of the ways that members express their appreciation, express their support is by giving financial donations," he told reporters. "In this semester that just finished, we were far below where we needed to be in terms of financial donations, so I accept the verdict of the membership."
Julian, who has been a B.C. MP since 2004, was the first candidate to launch a bid. He promoted free post-secondary education, a large-scale affordable housing program, and opposed the Kinder Morgan, Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines as well as any raw bitumen exports.
His position on pipelines, he said, helped move the other NDP candidates closer to his side.
Julian had obtained the most caucus endorsements, particularly from Quebec MPs such as Pierre-Luc Dusseault and provincial caucus chair Robert Aubin. In April, he also received the backing of well-known MP Alexandre Boulerice.
But fundraising was a problem, he admitted. Julian raised $32,026 before he formally announced his bid in February and before other candidates joined the race.
During the first quarter of this year, however, he raised far less money from fewer contributors than his competitors. At a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Julian declined to speculate on why his campaign failed to resonate with donors. He said he had raised $80,000 since the end of 2016.
Quarterly returns (January - March):
Charlie Angus: $110,765 (from 853 individuals)
Niki Ashton: $65,521 (from 508 individuals)
Guy Caron: $57,235 (from 248 individuals)
Peter Julian: $19,143 (from 217 individuals)
Julian suggested his decision had nothing to do with Ontario NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh's entry into the contest this spring. Singh, a popular bilingual politician, has garnered a lot of media attention.
"There is never a guarantee in politics. I've won more than a dozen elections. I've lost maybe half a dozen. You evaluate based on what you have moving forward and then you make your decision...
"Over the next three months, with where we are financially, I think the personal financial risk was too great," he told reporters. While his campaign is not in debt, Julian said he thinks it would have been if he'd kept going. "I've seen the graveyard of politicians who have invested a lot of their personal money because they thought they could change the dynamic financially, and many of those people, as you know, are still paying off huge debts that they undertook...
"I"m not ready to impose [that] on myself or my family."
There is never a guarantee in politics.
Four contestants — Singh, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron, and Niki Ashton, who announced in May that she is pregnant —remain in the race to replace NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who was ousted by the membership after the party's disappointing 2015 election result.
Julian said he plans eventually to endorse one of the four and phoned each one Thursday morning to let them know.
While all four praised him for his contributions, some also wasted no time pitching for his support.
In a Facebook post, Caron lauded Julian's fluency in French and his ability to understand the realities of Quebecers. He also noted his "passion and credibility" on homelessness and disabilities issues.
Ashton said in a statement that she was "saddened" to learn of Julian's decision and thanked him for his contributions and progressive agenda.
Singh told HuffPost Canada Julian was the first rival to congratulate him after he entered the race.
"He is someone that I got along with on the trail. He's one of the candidates that was the warmest to me," Singh said, adding that he shares "a lot of the same values" as Julian.
Singh pointed to his environmental platform and his upcoming policy on eliminating barriers to education as areas that might attract Julian's support. "I think that will encourage him as well as his supporters who care about the environment to look at me seriously."
Singh has not championed free post-secondary education, nor has he been as vocal against pipelines as Julian, although he opposes the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipelines.
Angus noted his support for eliminating post-secondary fees, saying he agrees with Julian on the goal but isn't yet sure on the process to get to tuition-free education.
"I'd love to work with Peter on the race," he told HuffPost. "I think there are areas that he brought forward, really good initiatives on issues of affordability, the need to address the housing crisis in this country, the issues of disability, and the issues of affordability for students. Those are all issues I'm very interested in working with him on."
Angus added that he feels Julian brought "a real level of class and professionalism" to the race. "But it's a long race, and it's really difficult to keep raising the funds and build the team, I understand that."
Angus, who raised the most money during the first part of the year, would not reveal how much he had raised in the second quarter but said he hit his goals.
Second contender to bow out
Julian is the second leadership candidate to bow out of the contest.
In June, former veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran quit the race he entered in April, citing the need to protect his family from a "potentially harmful rumour." He did not elaborate other than to call it "malicious and unfounded."
Both Stogran and Julian forfeit a $30,000 registration fee.
NDP members choose a new leader this fall in a potentially long run-off contest. Each week, beginning in October, a contestant will be voted out of the race unless or until someone obtains more than 50 per cent support.
"This particular race takes more financial resources than a normal delegated convention might have," Julian acknowledged Thursday, citing the weekly candidate showcases and balloting. "But the upside is it engages more of the membership."