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This article was published 3/10/2017 (1201 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Niki Ashton says she’ll continue to champion pulling the federal NDP to the left of the political spectrum, blaming sexist media coverage for her third-place result in Sunday’s leadership race.
"It was under-reported and underestimated," Ashton told the Free Press Tuesday, her first public statement since the party's leadership election in Toronto.
"We knew from the contact we were making with people across the country that there was tremendous support and enthusiasm for the ideas that we were putting forward."
The NDP crowned Jagmeet Singh its leader with 53.8 per cent support, defying expectations by winning more than half of votes on the first round.
Ashton placed third with 17.4 per cent support, behind Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus (19.4 per cent) but ahead of Quebec MP Guy Caron (9.4 per cent).
The northern Manitoba MP said she was "really proud of the result" as it was announced, adding she believes her efforts pulled other candidates to the left.
"It was interesting to sort of watch a lot of the mainstream media ignore our campaign or discount (it)" she said, adding the media focused intensely on her pregnancy.
On Tuesday, Singh said Ashton "will absolutely have a place in our team," because "her values speak to the heart of New Democratic values."
"She did a great job with raising incredible issues around gender justice, climate change, precarious work (and) free tuition."
The two haven’t spoken since the result, aside from the brief initial congratulations. Ashton, however, anticipates having a key role in the caucus. "I absolutely believe that we need a bold, progressive vision going forward," she said.
She also pledged to continue raising Manitoba issues, such as the damaged Churchill rail line, and cuts to value-added jobs in the resource sector, such as mines near Thompson.
Ashton, 35, had targeted millennials by pledging higher corporate taxes, no pipelines and federal control over everything from pharmacare to sustainable-energy projects.
She pitted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as someone who doesn’t walk the talk, supporting multinational corporations and trade deals after running on an environmental, progressive platform.
Ashton said millennials will likely be the majority of the electorate in future elections, and they were drawn to her ideas in the campaign calls and social-media posts.
"It’s definitely around the corner," she said. "A tremendous amount of young people responded to our campaign."
She told the Free Press last week her focus on inequality was largely motivated by seeing widespread poverty among the 85,000 residents of her sprawling, resource-rich Churchill--Keewatinook Aski riding.
But she also pushed hard against Singh, whom many saw as her top opponent, over how he addressed domestic-assault allegations against new provincial NDP Leader Wab Kinew (who eclipsed her father, former Manitoba MLA and cabinet minister Steve Ashton, last month with three times as many votes).
During the campaign, Ashton called on Singh, a criminal defence lawyer, had to clarify whether he believed Kinew’s former partner, Tara Hart, because "to not take a clear stand is a way of pushing more women into silence."
Singh eventually made stronger statements about the allegations, including Tuesday. "I should be absolutely clear: I believe survivors. I believe Tara Hart. We need to make sure it's easier to come forward and not face retraumatization," he said.
Ashton said she was "very pleased" to hear his comments.
Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice, an influential voice in the party who stood next to Singh at his first press conference as leader, said Singh won’t put Ashton on the sidelines after she won one-fifth of the vote.
"Of course, she has a big future in the NDP," said Boulerice. "Leadership races sometimes leave some scars, but it’s a normal process."
Boulerice had endorsed a fifth candidate, Peter Julian, who dropped out of the race in July. Boulerice did not throw his support behind anyone else, despite views that generally align with Ashton.
"The NDP is a big coalition and everybody has a place."
Parliamentary bureau chief
In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"