NDP to choose next leader of Official Opposition this week

    Fifth-year STU student Ella Henry is endorsing Brian Topp, the party president who is on a leave of absence during the race. (Submitted)

    No one saw it coming.

    It was the third wheel for 51 years; the nagging younger brother who wouldn’t get out of your face. The maturity of Red and Blue seemed to leave him in the corner to bang his fists against the wall – until now, that is.

    For the first time in history, the federal New Democratic Party is the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The party won 103 seats, stealing many away from the Liberals and the depleted Bloc Quebecois.

    It was a victory to say the least, one led by the late Jack Layton, who had prostate cancer and passed away this past August. He was a fighter and a true believer – and now someone has to fill his shoes.

    The race is on for the next leader of the NDP. According to its website, there are about 131,000 NDP delegates across the country, including 946 in New Brunswick.

    They will get to vote on their new leader while the public sits back and waits for the results to come this Saturday.

    But according to Rob Moir, an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick Saint John and a past federal NDP candidate, there are still ways for New Brunswickers – and students – to get involved.

    “We’re on the NDP’s radar,” Moir said in an email. “New Brunswick is seen as an area of potential growth for the NDP.”

    Moir said when it comes to supporting a candidate, New Brunswickers should ask themselves: what does each candidate think of shale gas exploration? How does he or she view equalization? Are there any plans to develop binding climate change legislation?

    Ella Henry, a fifth-year student at St. Thomas University and a member of the NDP, said students should pay attention to the candidates’ policies on post-secondary education, job creation, public transit and affordable housing.

    “Whoever wins the leadership of the NDP could have the same effect on our lives as Prime Minister Harper does now,” she said in an email.

    Henry has openly endorsed former party president Brian Topp. She said he isn’t afraid to take on tough issues against Stephen Harper.

    “I want a country where no child grows up in poverty, where all young people have access to quality education without taking on outrageous debt; a country where we take on climate change and build an economy that works for workers and the environment, not only for profits.

    “And I think that as Prime Minister, Brian Topp would build that Canada.”

    Moir still isn’t sure who he wants for the position, but he said Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair, B.C. MP Nathan Cullen and Ontario MP Peggy Nash are his favourites.

    “I don’t think there is a ‘worst’ candidate for [New Brunswick],” he said.

    “I think that we really shook things up in the last federal election and that caused everyone in Ottawa, at least in the NDP, to take a look and see what’s growing out here.”