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NDP MP Charlie Angus speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa on April 12, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
NDP MP Charlie Angus speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa on April 12, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Charlie Angus steps down as NDP caucus chair to mull leadership bid Add to ...

A second New Democrat politician has stepped away from a significant role in the federal caucus to consider a bid for the party’s leadership as the NDP continues the long process of renewal after the 2015 election.

Charlie Angus, the 54-year-old who represents the massive riding of Timmins-James Bay in Northern Ontario, told reporters on Wednesday that he was giving up the job of caucus chair to talk about mounting a campaign.

Mr. Angus’s announcement comes a little over a month after Peter Julian, the MP for New Westminster-Burnaby in British Columbia, said he would relinquish the duties of house leader to undertake his own discussions about a potential drive to replace Thomas Mulcair.

It will be nearly a year before New Democrats choose a new leader in October, 2017. Mr. Mulcair, who lost his bid to remain party leader last April, will stay on until his replacement is named.

Party stalwarts say his successor will be handed the unglamorous job of rebuilding from the bottom up, and leading a re-invigoration that became necessary after the NDP was turfed from the offices of the official opposition when the Liberals surged to power.

“It’s a huge decision to make,” said Mr. Angus, a writer and punk-rock musician who ran a homeless shelter in Timmins and who was, most recently, the NDP’s voice on indigenous issues. “I am going to step aside and take the time. This is going to be a very very long race. There’s a lot to consider.”

The next few months, he said, would be spent talking to people in his riding and other New Democrats about party renewal.

“I think our party really needs to get back to the ‘simples’ of politics, the who and the why,” said Mr. Angus. “Who is it that we represent, who do we speak for?”

Mr. Julian, meanwhile, says he has already had “hundreds and hundreds” of discussions with New Democrats in different parts of the country to find out if his vision for the future of the NDP is aligned with theirs.

“I believe very strongly we need a national social democratic alternative to the Liberals,” said Mr. Julian, “and that is certainly part of what’s getting me very interested in having all these conversations.” But he says he is far from making a decision.

Mr. Angus and Mr. Julian are, so far, the only people to publicly indicate their potential interest in leading the party.

That is a far different situation to that of the Conservatives who are also looking for a new leader after the departure of former prime minister Stephen Harper. A dozen candidates are running to head the Tories and more may join them.

The NDP race, on the other hand, has so far been more about who will not be running. Nathan Cullen, the popular B.C. MP who ran third in the 2012 leadership race, has said he is not interested. So has Brian Topp, the man who came second to Mr. Mulcair.

But there are several people who are rumoured to be thinking about it. They include Nikki Ashton, the MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski in Manitoba; Alexandre Boulerice, the MP for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie in Quebec; and Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the MP for the Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinongé who will become the caucus chair now that Mr. Angus has moved aside.

Peggy Nash, a party veteran who ran for the leadership in 2012 but was among the many New Democrat incumbents defeated last year, said she understands why candidates will wait to declare their intentions, given the amount of time left before the vote.

“I don’t think we will have a lack of good candidates,” Ms. Nash said. In addition to the MPs, “there are people outside the House who are certainly looking at this and testing the waters and thinking about it,” she said, “They are still kind of mulling it over and seeing what kind of campaign they could run, what kind of support they would get.”

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