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NDP MP Linda Duncan speaks to reporters in Edmonton on Oct. 16, 2008. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)
NDP MP Linda Duncan speaks to reporters in Edmonton on Oct. 16, 2008. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Dewar lands support from Alberta's only opposition MP in NDP race Add to ...

Alberta’s only sitting New Democrat has weighed in on her party’s leadership race, endorsing the bid of Ottawa MP and teacher Paul Dewar.

Linda Duncan, who represents Edmonton–Strathcona, made the announcement at a lighting store in her home city Thursday with Mr. Dewar. She’s the first sitting MP to back Mr. Dewar’s bid to succeed the late Jack Layton as NDP leader.

“It means a lot. It’s huge for me,” Mr. Dewar said. He plans to focus his campaign on energy, environment and the economy, and sees Ms. Duncan’s home of Alberta as fruitful ground for his party. “If we’re going to win government, we have to increase our support in places like Alberta and the west.”

Ms. Duncan said she debated about whether to make an endorsement and, then, who to endorse. She chose to back Mr. Dewar, a friend of hers, because of his skills as a parliamentarian and in building consensus. “I want to make sure I have the same style and calibre in leadership that I became used to with Jack, and that’s what I see with Paul.”

An “added extra bonus” that led to the endorsement was Mr. Dewar’s clean-energy plan, which he released a day before. He favours a cap-and-trade emissions program and a shift to renewable sources of electricity. Both initiatives are at odds with Ms. Duncan’s home province of Alberta, which relies heavily on dirty coal power, exports carbon-heavy oil sands bitumen and produces 33 per cent of Canada’s total carbon emissions with roughly 10 per cent of its population.

Ms. Duncan, however, has long lobbied for stronger regulatory oversight of the oil sands and helped Mr. Dewar develop his strategy. He says he supports the oil sands, but believes the pace of new development needs to be slowed while government increases its environmental monitoring.

“This is going to be a resource that’s developed. It’s a matter of how much, what frequency and what are the effects on human health,” he said.

Alberta may seem an unusual target for a New Democratic leadership campaign – provincially, the NDP holds two of 83 seats, while federally only Ms. Duncan won her riding. However, there are nonetheless pockets of support for the party – 234,851 Albertans voted New Democrat in last year’s federal election, about 16.8 per cent of total votes cast. Mr. Dewar estimates there are between 6,000 and 8,000 active NDP members in Alberta.

“I think what people don’t recognize is how strong we are on the ground in Alberta,” Ms. Duncan said.

Mr. Dewar’s energy plan would see taxes raised on oil companies and investments made in renewable energy sources.

He’s among eight people vying for the leadership. The vote will be held on March 24.

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