Federal NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton made a city stop last Wednesday as part of her prairie tour.
Ashton, MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, announced last month that she was in the running for the leadership of the federal NDP party. A leadership election is scheduled to run this October to replace current leader Tom Mulcair.
“We hit the road on Monday morning (last week) and launched our economic justice tour which will take us across the country,” she said. “The first part of the country that we really wanted to visit was the prairies.”
Ashton said the growing inequality that she is seeing across the nation is a key part of why she chose to run for the party’s leadership.
“This is a core theme of our campaign – and the goal is to hear from Canadians across the country about what the struggle for economic justice looks like in their communities,” she said. “That includes the struggle for good jobs, the fight against precarious work, the fight against corporate greed – and of course that takes different forms wherever you are,” she said.
“But it’s something that we are all experiencing as inequality grows across the country.
During her time in Red Deer, she visited with a number of community leaders and activists at various organizations including Red Deer College and Turning Point.
“We heard about the impacts of the job losses in the oil and gas industry and people reeling from that,” she said, adding that she also chatted with a couple who told her they were very worried about the job prospects for their daughters. “That echoes what we are hearing across the country about the inter-generational inequality that is increasing.
“We got a real sense of the cross-section of experience that way in which working people, and people struggling in poverty, are being pushed further and further aside.
“Our trend is mirroring that of the U.S. We know that the growth in inequality leads to instability in different ways,” she said. “We need an alternative. We need political leadership to take on that growing inequality.”
Ashton said her decision to enter the leadership race was prompted by a sense that her party is at a crossroads.
“I feel that we strayed from who we are and what we stand for in some ways,” she said, referring in part to the 2015 election. “We need to reconnect with our principles – we need to be proud of being the progressive party on the left. We need to speak very clearly for working people and those that are struggling.
“I also decided to run because I believe that Canada is at a crossroads,” she said, adding the two big challenges of our time are growing inequality and the threat of climate change.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that a generation of young Canadians believe – as polls show – that many believe they will live lives worse off than their parents. That is unacceptable for a country as wealthy as Canada.
“Essentially, I would say that the stakes are too high not to get involved.”
Ashton was first elected in the 2008 election.