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NDP leadership debate in Vancouver: live blog

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Interesting tactic - rhetoric which seems to isolate the national headquarters of the NDP from its riding associations.

12:45 p.m. - Although the heat is definitely turned up in this final debate - following a turn towards the nasty in the last few weeks - the crowd here in Vancouver is quick to laugh, and the candidates have shown humour so far in the debate. 

When Nathan Cullen's turn came to ask his question of any other candidate, he joked that he would give Mulcair a break after a barrage of questions towards the Quebec politician. He turned his question instead to Singh (who some speculate may drop from the race and endorse Mulcair). The famously tempestuous Mulcair smiled broadly as the crowd laughed.

People keep referring to "elephants in the room" (Cullen said it several times, others have referenced it). Cullen then mingled his metaphor with a "threading the needle" image. 

What is the proverbial elephant, though? Is it the failure to properly recognize immigrant's qualifications (repeatedly using Saskatchewan cab drivers as a rather, obscure example)? Is the elephant the latest turn towards the negative in the campaign, with accusations flying of dishonesty, corporate funding, and backroom deals?

The media will no doubt jump on the tension evident in the room today, and exploit the candidates' differences. But after past debates, the media yawned and said it was a boring, uninspired conversation. It seems the New Democrats don't gain whether they play nice or rough, at least in the media.


12:30 p.m. - This round of the debate has the candidates asking each other questions, as introduced by the moderator as a test of their abilities in Question Period in Parliament.

So far, all but one of the questions (Nathan Cullen's) have hit Thomas Mulcair with a string of stinging questions - a sign that he continues to be perceived as a frontrunner in the race. Candidates like Niki Ashton, Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash have accused him of taking the NDP away from its roots.

"Folly is believing that repeating the exact same gesture we'll get the exact same results," Mulcair responded to one question. "We have to follow in the track left by Jack" - but to go further to gain elusive seats in the West. He talked about Jack as the "happy warrior."

"I think you've got the warrior part down, Tom," joked Paul Dewar.

Rumours that Mulcair is using presumed last-place candidate Martin Singh as his "attack dog" were evoked during Nathan Cullen's attack on Singh, in which he asked the candidate to apologize for accusing Topp of lying. Singh vigorously denounced the allegations of cooperation, saying his debate style is his own.

12 p.m. - The debate has totally filled the CBC theatre downtown. Organizers had to close the doors with a long line remaining when the venue packed to the brim. Opening salvos have begun. Here's a summary of what the seven remaining candidates said in their opening statements:

Niki Ashton: "Liberal Tory, same old story... We must not and cannot sacrifice our principles."

Martin Singh: "I'm running for Prime Minister of Canada..." He may be jumping the gun somewhat, but Singh focused his campaign around a national public Pharmacare plan.

Thomas Mulcair welcomed people with warmth people have come to expect of the seasoned former Liberal politician. He warned of the need for a strong leader, knowing “what stands to be lost if we continue with the Harper Conservative government." With cuts to medicare and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, Harper is "leaving the greatest ecological and social debt in Canada's history in the backpacks of future generations."

Nathan Cullen: "We've been bullied and called names for standing up and standing together against the Enbridge pipeline. This doesn't make us radicals or enemies of the state – it makes us Canadians. We have a better vision for this country – that we have an audacious belief that we can unite progressives from coast to coast to coast."

Paul Dewar: "This debate should be about who has energy, passion, experience and plan ... I want to make sure we win back our country."

Peggy Nash: "Youth: your energy and creativity are so inspiring... (NDP will) become the government a majority of Canadians want, based on values of social justice, environmental sustainability, and jobs – inspire 40 per cent who don't vote. As leader, I will put proportional representation front-and-centre so every voice and every vote counts."

Brian Topp: "Friends, Jack Layton told us to be loving, hopeful and optimistic. I'm very optimistic about what comes next: we will unite, we'll defeat Stephen Harper."

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