Former vets ombudsman considers NDP leadership bid, criticizes 'elite' Liberals and Tories

Former veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran says he is considering a bid for the federal NDP leadership.

Until 2007, Stogran was a career soldier who led the first Canadian battle group into Kandahar during the Afghan war.

Stogran says he is worried about the direction of the country and what sort of environmental, social and security legacy will be left for his children and their children.

"I served, and I say we need a government with a vision," Stogran said. "I have been apolitical all of my life. I have never belonged to any party. And I have voted based on issues, not the colour of tie they wear."

At the moment, he isn't a member of the NDP.

It is a "huge handicap," Stogran said. "But I believe it's where I belong because their heart is the right place."

Stogran emphasized that he has not made up his mind about running for the leadership, but is being motivated by broken Liberal government promises, including those made to veterans.

Although the Liberals have poured billions of additional dollars into the benefits and treatment of ex-soldiers, they have yet to fulfil a campaign pledge to return to system of lifetime pensions as compensation for injuries.

1st veterans ombudsman

Handpicked to be the country's first veterans ombudsman by the former government of prime minister Stephen Harper, Stogran had many backroom battles with the bureaucracy over benefits and political indifference.

It culminated in 2010 when his term was not renewed and the disagreements with the Conservative government spilled out in the public. Stogran at the time described the attitude of Veterans Affairs as "penny pinching."

In making a bid for the NDP's top job, Stogran said he already brings a reputation of standing up for average people, who are often ignored.

He said he believes people are tired of politics as usual and they're fed up with "corporate elites" running the country through either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

"People have had a gut full of the initiatives of Harper, but [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau is cut from the same cloth," said Stogran. "Same garbage in a different bag."

4 candidates in NDP race

There are currently four candidates in the race to replace Tom Mulcair: Guy Caron, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Peter Julian.

Each of them has long-established roots in the party, something Stogran does not.

The NDP's traditional fault lines — between being a progressive voice and mainstream electable — have re-emerged since Mulcair's ouster last year.

The party's soul-searching was on display at last weekend's leadership debate, as candidates struggled to explain the 2015 election loss.

"The left needs to retrench," said Stogran, who believes the party needs to be a rallying point for the disenfranchised.
"Government is about rule of law and human rights. Government is about helping us provide for families. You need pragmatic due diligence in government, but it's about taking care of people."

PTSD treatment

Stogran has been an outspoken advocate for better treatment of soldiers suffering with post-traumatic stress. In 2013, he told CBC News he was being treated for PTSD, which he attributed to the stress of his battles within government, as well as his overseas service.

The party's leadership race remains open to new candidates until July 3.

Ontario NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh is another person who is considering a bid for the leader's chair.

The results of the leadership contest will be announced in October.