Thomas Mulcair, the candidate whom aboriginal Member of Parliament Romeo Saganash endorsed after dropping his own bid to head the New Democratic Party (NDP), is the new leader of the government's official opposition.
Winning 57.2 percent of the votes in the March 24 contest, according to Postmedia News, he succeeds Jack Layton, who died last August of cancer. Aboriginal Member of Parliament (MP) Romeo Saganash, a protégé of Layton's, had pulled out due to family considerations and a bout of pneumonia, but later endorsed Mulcair, The Montreal Gazette reported.
“Of all my great colleagues who have offered to be our next leader, I believe that Tom is best able to lead all Canadians into that better future together,” Saganash said in a statement at the time. “Tom has shown throughout this race that he has the ability to bring progressive Canadians of all stripes together, united under the NDP banner. We can create the country we dream of and I have lots of confidence that Tom will lead us to victory in 2015.”
Mulcair debuted to cheers in Parliament on Monday March 26 with promises to continue Layton's legacy of change.
“As Jack Layton said, our greatest accomplishment wasn’t winning seats in Parliament,” he said, according to Postmedia News. Rather, it was "giving people a reason to believe, that you can vote for change."
Aboriginal leaders congratulated Mulcair and expressed the hope that he would indeed continue reaching out to aboriginals as Layton had done.
"Former Party Leader Jack Layton had fostered a great working relationship with the First Peoples during his tenure and the hope is that Mr. Mulcair will continue to do the same," the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) said in a statement. "Though early on in his leadership, there has been no mention of this relationship or his party’s future plans in this regard."
AIAI Grand Chief Denise Stonefish said she hoped that Mulcair's stated intention of modernizing the party would not get in the way of aboriginal relations.
“While we can appreciate Mr. Mulcair’s modernizing the NDP and its messaging into the 21st century, AIAI hopes to continue our strong and positive working relationship with the NDP and that Mr. Mulcair will endeavor to carry on the work done by Mr. Layton regarding First Peoples," she said in the AIAI statement.