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Cullen denies interest in pre-convention pact with NDP rivals

B.C. MP Nathan Cullen waves to supporters after the final NDP leadership debate in Vancouver on March 11, 2012.

BEN NELMS/Ben Nelms/Reuters

With voting already underway in the race to succeed Jack Layton as NDP leader, candidates are jostling for support and, in some cases, considering what happens if they are forced to drop out after the first or second ballot.

That has caused some speculation about whether alliances are forming between the front runners and those who are less likely to emerge victorious. Nova Scotia pharmacist Martin Singh has already said he will throw his support behind Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair if he is force to make an early exit when the initial results are revealed Saturday.

But other candidates are being forced to publicly declare they are not interested in co-operating with any of their fellow contenders in advance of the leadership convention.

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When a Toronto Star columnist wrote Monday that Nathan Cullen had held unspecified meetings with his rivals Brian Topp and Peggy Nash, Mr. Cullen's campaign manager came out swinging.

Mr. Cullen has been clear he is giving no thought to who his second choice might be and there have not been – and will not be – discussions with any campaign about any alliance, Jamey Heath wrote in a e-mail to journalists.

"There have been discussions about other issues," Mr. Heath explained. "On Thursday, for example, Nathan's campaign initiated a conference call about balloting delays and in the course of this did speak with other campaigns. But there has been no discussion at all about any potential alliance."

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar has also publicly stated that he will not be part of any side-deals with other candidates prior to the convention.

It is not clear at this point how effective any such alliance would actually be given the complicated balloting procedure that gives roughly 130,000 paid-up members of the New Democratic Party a vote.

Other leadership conventions have seen failed candidates walk across the floor to deliver their support to someone who is still in the race. That's what happened in 2006 when Gerard Kennedy shook hands with Stéphane Dion on the floor of a Montreal convention centre to propel Mr. Dion to victory in the Liberal leadership race.

But, in the case of New Democrats, convention-floor endorsements will have no effect on the many voters who are expected to mark their ballots in advance. And, while there is a certain pack mentality among delegates who are sent to a convention to back a specific candidate, individual voters making their choices from home are less likely to fall in line.

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Speaking of the convention, all candidates are busy preparing 20-minute presentations which will be given on Friday night as a last pitch to voters.

In the case of Mr. Dewar, his "showcase" will feature a new duet with MP Charlie Angus and a Canadian hip hop artist. And he is promising a video introduction by a "surprise guest."

Ms. Nash, meanwhile has issued a call to action to her supporters via YouTube.

In it, she says regardless of what comes out of the current allegations of voter suppression by robo-calls during the past election, Canadians need a system that will not tolerate anti-democratic behaviour and she urges anyone who is discouraged by the scandal to join her in doing politics differently.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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