After garnering the endorsement of former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, Brian Topp used his NDP leadership campaign to launch a series of attacks against the Harper government.
Mr. Topp is seen as the frontrunner in the race to replace Jack Layton. And with only one declared rival he is now showcasing his ability to take on the Conservatives.
So far, Mr. Topp has been touted as an experienced political strategist, but there have been questions about his ability in front of the cameras. In particular, Mr. Topp is not seen as being as effective as his main potential rival, NDP House Leader Thomas Mulcair, in publicly attacking the Conservative government.
However, Mr. Topp was accompanied by Mr. Romanow at a campaign stop in Saskatoon on Tuesday where he took a series of shots against the Prime Minister and his Conservative government.
"I'm running to be leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, because I have some bones to pick with Stephen Harper," Mr. Topp said in his prepared speech. "Because I believe Canada can do a lot better with a new, better, federal NDP government."
Mr. Topp expressed his opposition to a new pipeline between Alberta and the United States, arguing that it would be used to send "Western Canadian jobs" down south. He also railed against corporate tax cuts and accused Mr. Harper of wanting to encourage the privatization of Canada's health care system.
Then the NDP contender blasted Canada's foreign policy under the Conservatives, saying it has harmed Canada's "good name in the world."
"Mr. Harper has never seen a war he didn't want Canada to join," Mr. Topp said. "I think Canada should be a voice for peace in the world."
Mr. Topp has already obtained the support of former leader Ed Broadbent, Quebec MP Françoise Boivin and a series of provincial New Democrats in British Columbia, while most other candidates are still debating whether to enter the race. The only other declared candidate is rookie MP Romeo Saganash, who barely registered in a recent public opinion poll.
While Mr. Topp has never held an elected office, he is well known in the union movement and in New Democrat circles, having worked in party backrooms across the country since the 1980s, at both the federal and provincial levels.
Mr. Topp was a senior official in the Romanow government in the 1990s, and he has continuously argued that a federal NDP government would be modeled on successful provincial experiences with the New Democrats such as Saskatchewan's.
"I worked closely with Brian and I know that he has the right combination of skills and experience to get the job done," Mr. Romanow said in a statement. "He is disciplined, principled and is deeply committed to a better future for every Canadian."
The Romanow endorsement will fuel the impression that Mr. Topp is the candidate of choice of the NDP establishment. So far, Mr. Topp has also stayed one step ahead of his potential competitors, being the first to formally announce his intentions to replace Jack Layton, who died last month.
"Roy's support means a tremendous amount to my campaign," Mr. Topp said. "He represents one of the best governing traditions of our party, showing that you can deliver a competent, principled government that grows the economy, supports vital public services, and makes life better for average people."