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NDP to run in Quebec election -- next time

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MONTREAL -- Tom Mulcair says Quebecers will get a chance to vote New Democrat in the province's next election as the federal party looks to capitalize on last year's electoral breakthrough.

The NDP leader said the party was too busy to create a Quebec version in time for the current election campaign, which will send Quebecers to the polls on Sept. 4.

But Mulcair indicated Friday the NDP is planning to build a provincial cousin before the next election.

The creation, he believes, would add a missing component to the province's political playing field: a left-leaning, federalist voice.

The province's two major federalist parties -- the Liberals and the Coalition for Quebec's Future -- are both considered right-of-centre.

"We think there's a place for us on Quebec's chessboard," Mulcair said following a speech to hundreds of university students in Montreal.

"There will be a provincial NDP, but for the next election."

The former Quebec cabinet minister said the NDP currently runs candidates in all provinces and territories. Soon, the party plans to have hopefuls in each of Quebec's 125 ridings.

The NDP's national president, Chantal Vallerand, reserved the name "Nouveau parti démocratique du Québec" in June with the province's electoral authority. The party has not yet registered a provincial NDP.

The federal New Democrats made historic strides in Quebec in the 2011 federal election. They now hold 58 of the province's 75 seats after nearly sweeping the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois completely off the map.

Mulcair said the party's growing presence in Quebec, which brings improved structural and financial support, encouraged the NDP to enter the provincial political ring. The timing just wasn't right during the last year, he said.

The co-leader of the left-wing Québec solidaire questioned why Mulcair would launch such a "hypothesis" in the middle of Quebec's election campaign.

Amir Khadir, the only person his sovereigntist party has ever had elected to the provincial legislature, told The Canadian Press Mulcair should instead be focused on the more important tasks at hand.

Khadir said Mulcair must concentrate on carrying out the federal NDP's job "to defend Quebec from decisions made by Harper's right-wing, monarchist government that collides, at all levels, with the aspirations of Quebecois society."

He then added: "The Quebecers who voted for the NDP in a large majority did it to block the Harper government -- not to bring an NDP to Quebec."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2012 A20

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