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NDP leadership debate in Vancouver: live blog

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Final remarks just wrapped up. Mulcair spoke strongly of his vision to "adapt" the New Democrats' message, something for which he has come under fire from his rivals as moving the party too far from its social democratic roots.

"In Quebec we adapted our party's message to reach beyond our traditional based. "Now we can do the same across Canada.

"In Northern Ontario, Liberals spent years taking their voters for granted. In 2008, we swept them out of office." 

Ashton ended the debate with some of the strongest words against Stephen Harper, offering a hopeful rallying cry for Canadians - and a warning for the Prime Minister.

"Stephen Harper, if you're watching today, I have a message for you," said Ashton. "Now, I have a message that is clear - enjoy your time as Prime Minister while it lasts.

"In 2011, if you think you saw an 'Orange Wave,' wait until 2015 - you'll see an orange wave from coast to coast" - sweeping the Conservatives' "corrupt politics" from office.

Next up are press scrums with the candidates.


1:20 p.m. - Cullen just played the "Western Alienation" card, one which seems more like the Conservatives than NDP - when I asked him about it in person after, he didn't deny he was playing the regionalism card, at all. But he pointed out that the Conservatives made gains in the West by successfully appealing to voters who felt ignored by Ottawa.

"We often feel ignored when we're shouting across the Rockies," said Cullen. "We need to speak to issues important to Western Canadians...

"As a kid who grew up in Toronto ... I see how we can bridge that gap, from urban to rural."

Topp addressed the question of regionalism by warning against fracturing the NDP's message along geographic lines. "One message" is the message, it seems.

"Sometime my French is not perfect - I know," Cullen said, in French. "When my land and my people are threatened, I will stand up for the land and the people."

Topp used his closing remarks to say he'll return as leader to demand hard work from NDP volunteers across the country.

"Let me add this cheery thought," Topp said. "All political careers end in tears."


1:15 p.m. - The debate has turned to strategies for defeating the Conservatives. Some of the humour has returned to the room after some fairly bitter questioning only half-an-hour ago.

"I guess I'm not getting any Christmas cards this year," joked Nathan Cullen, after Niki Ashton criticized his electoral cooperation plan. He then said it's telling that there are more members of the Mountain Equipment Co-op than the NDP. Cullen is definitely the (most successful) comedian in the room - is he someone you'd go for a beer with?


12:55 p.m. - The leadership wannabes are now answering their sole question in French. Paul Dewar's French has not been improving at the rate he insists it has - despite reported daily lessons, he threw in some fascinating Franglish by merely pronouncing "British Columbia" with a French-esque accent (the actual translation is Colombie-Britannique. Most analysts argue that, without comfort and fluency in French, no candidate could hold onto the party's gains in Quebec.

After Niki Ashton spoke about increasing respect for immigrants, Topp congratulated her on her French skills - it's unclear if it the compliment was sarcastic (Ashton's French seems good), but it certainly seemed somewhat condescending and elicted a few groans in the audience. (Reporters, too, were confused, and wondered if Topp had intended his comment for the clearly Anglophone moderator. "If it was for Ashton," a well-respected columnist told me, "it would have been incredibly condescending").

Peggy Nash maintains that Cullen's electoral cooperation plan (which proposed pre-election shared nomination meetings with other parties) will not work - but said that some pooling of party resources would be an alternative (for instance, joint advertisements to take on the Conservatives).

Both Nash and Cullen came under fire for suggesting cooperation in some degree. Then came Nash's question - and she again turned the fire onto Mulcair.

"Unlike the rest of us, you have not put forward a specific organization plan to make that happen," Nash asked Mulcair. "Where's your plan?"

"It's to go after the 338 ridings, which is the difference between me and the other candidates out there," Mulcair replied, adding that he "will put aside $3.38 million aside to gain those ridings."

"Clearly language doesn't build movements," Nash retorted, pointing to her support for strengthening riding associations. "People do."

"This is exactly our plan," Mulcair, saying he has heard riding associations across the country say, "We can't have everything imposed on us from Laurier Street in Ottawa."

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