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Thomas Mulcair is comforted by fellow deputy NDP leader Libby Davies while Jack Layton's casket lies in state in the foyer of House of Commons on Aug. 24, 2011. (Dave Chan/Dave Chan for The Globe and Mail)
Thomas Mulcair is comforted by fellow deputy NDP leader Libby Davies while Jack Layton's casket lies in state in the foyer of House of Commons on Aug. 24, 2011. (Dave Chan/Dave Chan for The Globe and Mail)

B.C.'s Nathan Cullen throws his hat into NDP leadership ring Add to ...

The race for the leadership of the federal New Democrats has grown a little more crowded with the addition of a British Columbia MP who promises to change politics for the better.

But Nathan Cullen, the 39-year-old who represents Skeena-Bulkley Valley, has much ground to close before catching front-runner Brian Topp. The former party president was endorsed Friday by leading member of the NDP caucus shortly before Mr. Cullen announced his own candidacy.

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At his Vancouver campaign launch, Mr. Cullen said the aim of the NDP should not be to beat Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the mere sake of the victory. It should instead be “to beat him with purpose and vision,” he said, “send his kind of politics to the dustbin of history where it belongs, and get a progressive government that this country’s progressive majority deserves.”

Three hours earlier outside Parliament’s Centre Block, party stalwart Libby Davies said she believes Mr. Topp, who has the support of many of those who were close to former leader Jack Layton, is the right man for the job.

“I feel very comfortable that Brian Topp understands the work that Jack has been doing,” Ms. Davies said. “He’s been a key part of our team. He’s got great leadership qualities. He has very progressive values. He has experience across the country.”

The endorsement by Ms. Davies is likely to carry much clout with New Democrats. She has been an MP for 14 years and was deputy leader under Mr. Layton.

So far, Mr. Topp and Romeo Saganash, a former Cree leader and Northern Quebec MP, are the only declared candidates. MPs Peter Julian, Robert Chisholm, Peggy Nash and Thomas Mulcair are still assessing their chances.

A little known New Democrat from Nova Scotia named Martin Singh is set to announce his candidacy in Mississauga on Sunday. Mr. Singh is a pharmacist and reservist in the Canadian Forces who currently serves as president of the party's faith and social justice commission.

His entry into the race is planned to come just before Paul Dewar, an MP from Ottawa, announces his own bid.

Even as the field grows more crowded, Mr. Topp is expected to remain a leading contender. But not all New Democrats are comfortable with his low-key style.

Phil Edmonston, who was convinced by Mr. Topp to run for the NDP and became the first New Democrat from Quebec to hold a seat in the federal Parliament, said prefers the more “muscular” style of Mr. Mulcair, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister from Quebec.

“Brian is much more prudent, much more careful, not temperamental,” than Mr. Edmonston said he is himself. “And those would be the reasons that, if it came up between Brian and Tom (Mulcair) I would go with Tom. Because I think process killed the NDP.”

And Michael Byers, an expert in global politics at the University of British Columbia who advised Mr. Layton, said too prefers Mr. Mulcair because of the strong stands he has taken to preserve the environment.

“We have a possible candidate who, not only has cabinet experience but is more of an environmentalist than (Green Party Leader) Elizabeth May,” said Mr. Byers. “And people need to know that.”

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