OTTAWA — Thomas Mulcair believes he has the support of the NDP’s 43 other MPs in his bid to stay on as leader of the party.
Wrapping up a caucus retreat in Montebello, Que. Wednesday, Mulcair was asked if he had the support of 100 per cent of his caucus to stay on as party leader.
“Yes, I am convinced and very honoured by the support that I have in caucus,” Mulcair said, flanked by 14 of his fellow New Democrats at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. “But that’s the type of confidence you have to continue to gain, day after day, but not only in caucus, within the party instances, and frankly in the ridings across the country.”
New Democrat MPs don’t select the party leader, but their influence will obviously a role as delegates prepare for a leadership review at the party’s convention in Edmonton this April.
Mulcair said the main message he heard from MPs at the retreat is a need to focus on what the NDP represents. Among other things, Mulcair says, that’s fighting inequality — a theme expected to be front and centre for New Democrats when the House of Commons returns on Monday.
Charlie Angus, the NDP’s caucus chair, said the retreat was an opportunity to lay out the roadmap for where the party wants to go after devastating results in October’s federal election.
“It wasn’t so much about looking back, but saying ‘OK, we got our asses handed to us last October, is there a way forward or what is the way forward’ . . . and is it something that’s going to get the buy-in from caucus,” Angus said.
“Tom was really good in that caucus meeting. He sat, he listened, he heard . . . . This wasn’t negative to Tom, the commentary. It was let’s be frank, what happened, and where do we go?”
While Angus said it was personally difficult to experience the absence of MPs who were defeated — well-liked MPs like Megan Leslie, Jack Harris, Andrew Cash — he was encouraged by the energy of the 16 rookie MPs attending their first strategy session.
That’s a position that Ruth Ellen Brosseau is familiar with. Once the butt of jokes for her absentee 2011 election campaign, Brosseau is now vice-chair of caucus.
“My story was kind of different,” Brosseau admits.
“(But) this time around I was able to augment the number of votes and support in my riding . . . . So I’m kinda sharing some best pointers, what to do, what not to do, where to concentrate.”
Heading into the Commons, the New Democrats are pledging to make the issue of inequality —income and otherwise — front and centre. Mulcair suggested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau missed an opportunity in Davos on Tuesday, where he’s attending the World Economic Forum, to reverse the former Conservative government’s decision to raise the retirement age to 67 from 65.
That parliamentary work will go on as former MP Paul Dewar and party president Rebecca Blaikie prepare to release a report into the 2015 campaign and what went wrong. That report is expected to be released in the middle of March, just before the party’s membership head to their convention in Edmonton.