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New Democrats to pick next leader in March; entry fee set at $15K

The NDP leadership convention will be held March 24 in Toronto.

And for the price of a new car, you too can enter the race.

The federal council of the New Democrats have set a modest entry fee of $15,000 — double the cost of last time — for the contest to replace the late Jack Layton.

Party brass also capped spending at $500,000.

There were New Democrats hoping the entry fee would be much higher than the $7,500 it cost to run in the 2003 race that Layton won.

Their thinking was the steeper the cost, the more serious the candidates.

Meanwhile, Olivia Chow says she won’t publicly support anyone in the race to replace her late husband Jack Layton as leader of the New Democrats.

But that doesn’t mean she won’t cast a ballot for the next leader when the party holds its convention.

“It’s one person/one vote,” Chow told reporters Friday.

“I’m a person. I’m going to vote. Are you kidding? I’m going to use my vote. I just don’t want to talk about it publicly.”

Many Canadians got their first real glimpse of Chow after Layton died of cancer Aug. 22. During a week-long public goodbye and at Layton’s Toronto funeral, hers was the stoic face of inner grief.

But given her standing among New Democrats, Chow has the potential to shape the outcome of the leadership race. Some might consider her endorsement to be what Layton would have wanted.

Undoubtedly aware of this, Chow isn’t showing her hand.

“Every individual has great strength, different kind of strength,” she said when asked who she favoured.

“For me to comment that one person is better than others, I don’t think that’s quite right.”

Earlier Friday, the interim head of the NDP urged her party to stick together ahead of a looming leadership race that threatens to unglue the disparate elements of the largely rookie caucus.

Nycole Turmel made the plea as the party’s federal council gathered in an Ottawa hotel to set the ground rules for the race to replace Layton.

“Every step we take will be watched closely,” Turmel said. “We must remain focused on the job of building our party.

“Jack showed us how we can do politics differently, how we can listen and respect other opinions and at the end of the day remain united. And that’s what we need to do today. We’ll take difficult decisions, but at the end of the day, we need to walk out of here and be united.”

The jockeying began shortly after Layton died of cancer last month. Party president Brian Topp’s name surfaced early as a possible leadership contender, rankling some New Democrats who felt it was too soon to be testing the waters for a run.

Deputy leader Thomas Mulcair, the party’s Quebec lieutenant, kept quiet in the days following Layton’s death, but recently he has been talking up his credentials in interviews.

Other names being floated for leader include MPs Peter Julian, Charlie Angus, Paul Dewar, Robert Chisholm, Nathan Cullen, Romeo Saganash, Megan Leslie and Peggy Nash.