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This article was published 15/3/2016 (1339 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA - Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton refused today to throw her support behind her leader, Tom Mulcair, but said that shouldn't be taken as a sign she doesn't support him.
Ashton, who is in her third term representing the northern riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, held a press conference this morning at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa to discuss the precarious work situations of many young people in Canada. But her event was held the same morning a letter was made public from 37 Quebec-based NDP members, including three former MPs defeated last fall, calling for party renewal.
Much like the letter doesn't specifically call for Mulcair's ouster as party leader, Ashton didn't specifically say she will vote against him at the upcoming leadership review vote planned for the NDP convention in Edmonton April 8-10. But she also didn't say she would vote for him either.
"I do think the process of renewal really needs to be founded on ideas," she said. "Whatever we're talking about, nothing is just about one person. I'm very encouraged about the messages we heard from our leader about the need to fight back on fundamental progressive values."
Ashton laughed nervously when asked why she wouldn't come right out and support Mulcair, eventually saying it should be left up to members.
"I've expressed my disappointment in the result (of the election)," she said. "I lost a number of incredible colleagues. Many of us feel there are things we could have done better."
Ashton insisted that her refusal to specifically support Mulcair is not a sign she doesn't support him.
"That's certainly not what I'm saying," she said.
Mulcair is facing the fight of his political life in this upcoming vote as he asks the party to allow him another chance as leader, despite the devastating results last fall. The NDP went from winning 103 seats and official opposition status in 2011, to winning 44 seats and third-party status last fall.
The leadership review will see NDP members vote on whether or not a leadership election should be held. According to the NDP constitution, at least 50 per cent plus one person will have to vote against holding a leadership contest in order for Mulcair to survive. But conventionally leaders have needed far more than that.
Party president Rebecca Blaikie has suggested Mulcair likely needs more than 70 per cent support.
Former Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin, who lost his seat last fall in the Liberal near-sweep of Winnipeg, said he has no hesitation to support Mulcair to stay on as leader.
"I don't accept our loss was catastrophic," he told the Free Press. "There was a time when we would have done cartwheels over 44 seats. I don't blame Tom for the results."
He called the letter from Quebec "sour grapes from a few MPs who lost their seats."
Martin also said he doesn't think the NDP wasn't bold enough, noting there were policies such as a federal minimum wage and national pharmacare.
"We had policies that would make Bernie Sanders blush," he said, referring to the self-described socialist candidate running for the Democratic nomination for president in the United States.