Ashton eyes taking run at federal NDP leadership

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OTTAWA -- Manitoba's youngest MP is seriously considering a run for the federal NDP leadership.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/09/2011 (4084 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Manitoba’s youngest MP is seriously considering a run for the federal NDP leadership.

Niki Ashton, who just turned 29, said she won’t make a decision until after the provincial election is over. But she said she will in the coming weeks weigh the option of running.

“People are asking me to,” she said Tuesday. “A number of people both here on the Hill and members on the ground.”

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES Niki Ashton

In particular, Ashton said she was asked repeatedly during a visit to Saskatchewan last week for the Saskatchewan NDP Youth Convention. The province where the NDP got its start no longer has any NDP MPs in the House of Commons and Ashton spends time trying to represent some Saskatchewan issues as a Prairie MP, in addition to representing her own riding of Churchill.

She said her goal in many ways is to grow the party in western Canada where the NDP has the most room to win more seats.

In an interesting twist, while the NDP reap more than half their current seats from Quebec, the West accounts for two-thirds of the party’s grassroots memberships. Only three of the 103 seats the NDP won in May are in the Prairies. Another 12 were won in B.C.

Ashton said she thinks she brings a lot to the race as a young MP, a woman and a representative from the Prairies.

“People pointed out to me they want to see an inclusive race with high energy and people running from across the country,” she said.

Thus far, only party president Brian Topp and Quebec MP and Cree leader Romeo Saganash are committed candidates. Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair has been expected to run but has not yet committed and appears to possibly be waffling because of the lack of grassroots members in Quebec. B.C. MP Peter Julian, Toronto MP Peggy Nash and Ottawa MP Paul Dewar are also said to be mulling over a run.

The leadership contest will cost $15,000 to enter. It will be decided March 24, 2012 at a convention in Toronto.

Ashton was first elected as the NDP MP for Churchill in 2008. Previous to that she was an instructor at University College of the North.

She counts among her more proud accomplishments as an MP drawing international attention to the plight of workers at the Vale SA nickel smelter and refinery in Thompson. The Brazilian mining giant plans to close the refinery by 2015, throwing up to 500 people out of work.

Ashton has been around politics her entire life. Her father, Manitoba cabinet minister Steve Ashton, was elected to the provincial legislature before Niki was born.

Noah Evanchuk, a Regina lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for the NDP in the Palliser riding in May, is among the NDP members pushing Ashton to run. He said she is vibrant and smart and has on-the-ground knowledge of most of Canada. She is also multilingual, speaking fluent Greek, English, French and Spanish.

Evanchuk said he doesn’t think anybody should dismiss Ashton’s candidacy because she is not yet 30. “Let’s not forget Roy Romanow was 30 years old when he first ran for the leader of the NDP in Saskatchewan in 1970,” said Evanchuk. “And Ed Schreyer became premier of Manitoba when he was 33.”

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

About Niki Ashton

Full name: Niki Christina Ashton

Born: Sept 9, 1982, in Thompson

First elected: 2008 in Churchill

Education: BA in global political economy (University of Manitoba); MA in international affairs (Carleton University)

Parliamentary roles: Currently the chairwoman of the House of Commons standing committee on the status of women; was the NDP critic for youth, rural Canada and northern development in the last Parliament.

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