Former party president Brian Topp has Canada's largest private-sector union behind him in his bid to replace Jack Layton as leader of the federal New Democrats.
The United Steelworkers announced Wednesday that Mr. Topp has its support. The union boasts 225,000 members in a wide range of economic sectors including mining, forestry and universities.
The endorsement comes the day before Thomas Mulcair – the Quebec MP who could provide Mr. Topp's fiercest competition – is expected to enter the race.
Ken Neumann, USW's Canadian national director, said in a release that the choice of the new NDP leader is critical to the future of working families.
"We need a federal leader who has what it takes to beat [Conservative Prime Minister]Stephen Harper and to govern well with strong New Democrat values," said Mr. Neumann. "That leader is Brian Topp. And the United Steelworkers is proud to strongly endorse Brian to become the next leader of the NDP."
Mr. Topp, a director with the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, is a long-time backroom worker for the party and worked closely on Mr. Layton's national campaigns.
In addition to Mr. Topp, MPs Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar and Romeo Saganash and Nova Scotia businessman Martin Singh have also declared their desire to become the next party leader.
The ties to Mr. Layton and the people who surrounded him have prompted complaints from other candidates – and from grassroots New Democrats – that the centre of the party is trying to dictate the outcome of the leadership vote.
The nod from the Steelworkers comes after a string of high-profile endorsements.
Last week, he announced that Raymond Guardia, a key player in Mr. Layton's entourage, would be his national campaign director. He also received the support of MPs Jean Crowder, Kennedy Stewart, Libby Davies, Alexandre Boulerice, Alain Giguère, and Yvon Godin.
In addition, Mr. Topp has received the backing of former NDP leader Ed Broadbent and former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow.