Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Robert Chisholm announces his candidacy for the NDP federal leadership Sunday morning in Dartmouth.

Robert Chisholm acknowledges he’s an underdog in the race to replace Jack Layton.

But the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP and former provincial NDP leader said he’s the only candidate who knows what it’s like to run a party.

Chisholm officially announced his candidacy at Alderney Landing yesterday morning, before a crowd of about 75 supporters and party faithful.

“The future of our party, and of our country, will be greatly influenced by the leader the New Democrats choose,” Chisholm told the crowd.

“My friends, mes amis, today I am officially declaring my candidacy to become the next leader of the federal New Democratic Party.”

While he’s only been an MP for seven months, Chisholm repeatedly referred to his experience as the leader of the provincial New Democrats ‘ whom he led to a historic victory in 1998, when they became official opposition for the first time.

“It’s true I’m new to Ottawa. I don’t see that as a bad thing,” said Chisholm.

“(But) what I do bring to the table (is that) I am the only candidate who has been a party leader. I am the only candidate who has been leader of the opposition, (and) I will bring that experience to the plate.”

Chisholm also acknowledged the elephant in the room ‘ the fact he does not speak French in a caucus with almost 60 members from Quebec.

“I’m working on it. I’m committed to working on my French,” he said.

“As I move forward I will continue to improve my facility in (Quebecers’) first language.”

Chisholm said “we’ll see” when asked if he will be able to respond to questions in French by March 24, when the New Democrats will convene in Toronto to select the next leader.

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