08/23/2017 13:49 EDT | Updated 08/23/2017 15:49 EDT

Niki Ashton, NDP Leadership Hopeful, Says She Is Expecting Twins

She is looking at a three-month leave window available to her as an MP.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Niki Ashton speaks as she participates in the first debate of the federal NDP leadership race in Ottawa on March 12, 2017.

OTTAWA — NDP leadership hopeful Niki Ashton says she is expecting twins in early November, shortly after her party selects a successor to Tom Mulcair.

Ashton said Wednesday she is looking at a three-month leave available to her as an MP, though she plans to remain engaged in her work and remain in Ottawa should she become the party's new leader.

She also has yet to determine whether an interim leader in the House of Commons would be needed during that period.

Ashton said she believes much media attention has been paid to her pregnancy, but she hopes Canadians will also hear about her policy positions.

"I would recognize there is a uniqueness to it, but ... it also reflects a bias that often comes up with covering women in politics — an immense amount of attention on one's personal life, appearances rather than the substance," she said in an interview Wednesday.

"In the work that we've done across the country, the events we've hosted, there are many, many good wishes and also sharing of advice on pregnancy," she said, adding conversations swiftly move into how to get the NDP on track to "fighting the issues that matter."

Candidates preparing for Montreal debate

An alternative leader would also be a serious consideration for the party should Jagmeet Singh win the leadership.

Earlier this month, Ontario legislator told The Canadian Press he's strongly considering waiting until 2019 to seek a seat in the House.

"I would be happy to spend the time while I am not a sitting member to campaign across the country, to get to know the issues, to get know the different ridings ... spending that time speaking with people, reaching out to them," he said, adding this move would be reminiscent of late leader Jack Layton.

Layton became leader in 2003, but he did not seek a seat in the Commons until the federal election the following year.

Singh, Ashton and rivals Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Quebec MP Guy Caron, are preparing for a French-language debate this Sunday in Montreal.

The Canadian Press
Guy Caron, left, speaks as Charlie Angus and Niki Ashton look on in the first debate of the federal NDP leadership race, in Ottawa on March 12, 2017.

Ahead of the event, Caron released a plan on Wednesday detailing his plans to rebuild support in Quebec.

It includes a pledge to modernize the party's Sherbrooke Declaration — a policy affirming the province's right to self-determination through a simple majority vote.

Caron said it is important to update the party's offer to the province based on its "national character", including to enact legislation on obligation of bilingualism among Supreme Court judges.

"Since the beginning of the leadership race, I've emphasized the need to increase our support in Quebec during the next election," Caron said in a statement. "Without significantly increasing the number of seats the NDP holds in Quebec, our chances of taking power in 2019 are virtually nil."

The NDP currently holds 16 seats in Quebec — well below the 59 it claimed in its historic 2011 breakthrough in the province under Layton's leadership.

Ashton to appear at debate by video

The final debate of the race will be held in Vancouver on Sept. 10, a little over a week before NDP members start casting ballots online on Sept. 18.

Ashton said she plans to appear at this debate by video, due to flying restrictions that apply at that point in her pregnancy, adding the party has been accommodating.

NDP National Director Robert Fox said Wednesday the party is aware of the situation regarding Ashton's participation in the Vancouver debate.

"We are exploring different technical options that would allow her to participate from a distance, but the exact form that this participation will take is unclear at this point," he said in a statement.

The party also made accommodations earlier this month to allow Angus to deliver a pre-recorded video statement during a debate in Victoria, B.C. due to a terminal illness in his family.

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