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Two potential leadership candidates say they represent the diversity Ontario’s NDP needs

An Indigenous New Democrat MPP from northwestern Ontario is weighing a bid for the NDP leadership, saying he would bring important perspectives to the forefront in the race to replace Andrea Horwath.

“It’s certainly something that could change the trajectory of the thinking of the people in Ontario,” Sol Mamakwa said Thursday after being sworn in for a second term as the member for Kiiwetinoong, a remote riding that includes Grassy Narrows.

“A lot of people have been reaching out to me.”

Widely respected by all parties in the legislature, Mamakwa has brought increased attention to Indigenous issues such as residential schools and boil-water orders. He is a former health policy adviser who has worked with the federal and provincial governments to push for improvements to the system.

More details on a leadership contest, from a timeline for the campaign and a final vote to financial requirements for candidates, are expected as early as next Tuesday after a meeting of the NDP’s provincial council.

“It’s on my mind, but what I really need to find out is, is it in my heart,” added Mamakwa, one of several New Democrat MPPs contemplating leadership runs or actively putting together organizations and assembling teams of volunteers.

The jockeying began in earnest after Horwath announced her resignation on election night as the party fell to 31 seats in the legislature, down from 40 in the 2018 vote that swept Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives to power.

But the New Democrats remain the Official Opposition with the second-most seats in the legislature, making the leadership an attractive prospect with hopefuls seeing opportunity if Ford stumbles in his second term.

An MPP who lost his York South-Weston seat by just 796 votes to Progressive Conservative Michael Ford — the premier’s nephew — said he is also mulling a leadership bid.

“I know I’m not part of the party establishment,” Faisal Hassan told the Star, saying more racial diversity is needed in the contest. Hassan said he was discouraged he didn’t get more help from other NDP candidates in the GTA who won their ridings by comfortable margins.

He was one of five MPPs in the party’s Black caucus during the last term. Two remain after the election.

Other members of the NDP caucus who have expressed interest in the leadership are Marit Stiles (Davenport), Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), Catherine Fife (Waterloo) and Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls).

Hassan said a longer leadership race than the roughly six months the party hierarchy appears to favour would give more time for new ideas and voices to gain traction.

“Six months, that would not help us,” he said.

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