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Politics Julian endorsement gives boost to NDP leadership hopeful Jagmeet Singh

Ontario deputy NDP leader Jagmeet Singh launches his bid for the federal NDP leadership in Brampton, Ont., on May 15, 2017.

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jagmeet Singh, the Ontario MPP who is one of the presumed front-runners in the race to lead the federal New Democrats, has received a significant boost with the endorsement of one of his former rivals.

British Columbia MP Peter Julian, a 13-year veteran of the House of Commons who abandoned his own leadership bid in July citing poor fundraising numbers, said Wednesday that Mr. Singh has his support as the contest enters its final weeks.

"I know how important it is to recruit new members for our movement to grow and for us to have an impact on the direction of the country," Mr. Julian said in a statement released by Mr. Singh's campaign team. "That's why I am supporting Jagmeet – he has attracted tens of thousands of new members to our party and to our movement. In most parts of the country, including in Quebec, a substantial part of our membership comes from his effective approach to bringing new members into our party."

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The New Democrats said late last month that there would be 124,000 members eligible to cast ballots for party leader. Mr. Singh claims to have signed up more than 47,000 of those people, though other contenders contest his numbers.

Elections Canada said in July that Mr. Singh was also leading the fundraising race, collecting more than twice as much money in the second quarter of this year than his closest competitor, Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus.

Mr. Singh, Mr. Angus and the other two hopefuls, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, will take part in a final debate in Vancouver on Sunday. And an event that the NDP are billing as a final showcase will take place in Hamilton, Ont., a week later to mark the start of what could be several weeks of voting.

The first results in the ranked ballot system will be announced in Toronto on Oct. 1. If no candidate has 50 per cent of the vote, the second-round results will be announced in Montreal a week later, with a third and final announcement taking place in Ottawa on Oct. 15, if necessary.

Mr. Singh is a lawyer and a mixed-martial arts expert who is also a turban-wearing Sikh.

Questions have been raised about his ability to attract voters in Quebec, a province that has provided the New Democrats with much of their support in the past two elections but one that is widely secular.

A Léger poll conducted in late August found that, while a large number of Quebeckers were unaware of Mr. Singh's candidacy, a sizable portion said they would be more reluctant to support a Sikh who wears a turban in the next election.

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For his part, Mr. Julian said he believed Mr. Singh would provide strong competition both for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

"Jagmeet is a strong and social democrat with a record for fighting for vulnerable communities," Mr. Julian said.

With the long race winding down, the candidates are all boasting the support of high-profile New Democrats.

Mr. Caron recently announced that he had the endorsement of long-time party insider Brian Topp, who was a big part of the victorious Alberta 2015 provincial campaign team and who ran unsuccessfully for the federal leadership against Tom Mulcair in 2012.

Mr. Angus, who is believed to be Mr. Singh's closest competitor, has significant cabinet support and endorsements from prominent Canadians including environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki.

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