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Black backs Topp - Stewart hopes for Julian

New Westminster MLA Dawn Black has endorsed the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring for leadership of the federal New Democrats.

New Westminster MLA Dawn Black has endorsed the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring for leadership of the federal New Democrats. But Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart is still hoping that fellow Burnaby MP Peter Julian will enter the leadership race.

On Tuesday in Vancouver, NDP president Brian Topp officially announced he'll run for party leader, and Black is backing him, along with former party leader Ed Broadbent and former MLA Joy MacPhail.

"I've known Brian for more than 20 years. I've worked mostly with him on a number of campaigns," Black said, adding that Topp was born and raised in Quebec. "He was active in Quebec with the New Democratic Party in the '80s and the '90s. so his commitment to the NDP and to social democracy is really profound, and that's important to me."

Black said Topp also has an understanding of the West, as he's been in B.C., working with the provincial NDP caucus because they were expecting a fall election.

"He has been very helpful to Adrian Dix and the NDP caucus here," she said. "He was one of the key architects of the last few federal elections that saw increased support right across the country."

Topp, along with Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian, recused himself from the NDP's recent federal

caucus meeting, where members determined the rules for the leadership race. Both wanted to be free from possible conflicts of interest in case they decided to run, but so far, only Topp has declared he's in the race, while Julian is "keeping the door open" on leadership.

"Peter would be a very attractive candidate also. I think he won't be the only one. There will be others. Brian's the first out of the gate," Black said. "I thought it was very important for me to state early on where I stood."

Meanwhile, Burnaby Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart hasn't endorsed anyone yet.

"We only have one person officially in the race, and we're just waiting to see some announcements come out in the next little while," Stewart said Wednesday, from the NDP's caucus retreat in Quebec, where MPs are preparing for Parliament to resume next Monday.

"I'm really hoping Peter Julian is going to run. I know he's still making up his mind. I really hope he's going to. I think he'd be a great prime minister," Stewart said. "He's bilingual, he attended university in Quebec. . He's been an MP for a long time on the front bench and has held many important critics' portfolios. . He's an experienced administrator and is really respected by his colleagues."

According to Stewart, an SFU professor of public policy and frequent media commentator on politics, Julian has an advantage because he's from B.C., a province with roughly 30,000 NDP members, while Quebec has about 2,000. The party will vote for a new leader in March, using the one member, one vote system, which means B.C. will be a decisive factor in who becomes leader of the Opposition.

According to Stewart, B.C.'s high NDP membership numbers are likely one reason Topp chose B.C. to make the announcement he was in the race - not because he's moving in on Julian's territory per se.

"It's because B.C. is going to be essential to the leadership race," Stewart said.

Stewart expects more candidates will come forward in the next couple of weeks.

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