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The NDP Are Rallying Around Their Old Leader For A New Start

Tom Mulcair gets a show of caucus support after his tough election loss.

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How do you win an election when you're too radical for Ontario but not radical enough for Quebec?

Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS

While the NDP were leading in the polls last year they made the pitch that they weren't the radicals of the past. They tried to reassure skittish voters that an NDP government would be reasonable, but ended up losing some of their base instead.

"When you reassure too much you don't create a dynamic of enthusiasm," said Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice Tuesday.

"Sometimes it's a lose-lose situation."

Boulerice and the rest of the NDP caucus are gathered for a two-day strategy retreat in Montebello, Quebec to figure out what went wrong in last fall's election and how to bounce back.

The NDP has to figure out how to be a leftist opposition to a left-wing Liberal government. They have to decide how much to focus on their former stronghold of Quebec.

And they have to decide whether they want a new leader.

There was speculation Tom Mulcair would step down as leader after the NDP were reduced from 95 seats to 44 in the election. But he stayed on and on Tuesday delivered a rallying call to his caucus.

Afterward, MPs told reporters they were uniting behind him.

"We should stay around Tom Mulcair. He's a leader who has enormous credibility with the Canadian public," said house leader Peter Julian.

The #NDP team is dedicated to its shared beliefs of equality, solidarity & fairness for a better Canada.

Mulcair has to go before the general membership for a leadership review in April, where rank-and-file New Democrats will vote on whether they support him as leader. One thing working in his favour is that with so many high-profile NDP politicians losing their seats, there is no heir-apparent.

Nathan Cullen, who represents northern British Columbia, finished third in the 2012 NDP leadership race and his profile is much higher now. But Cullen is giving no sign that he's interested in making a play for party leader.

"I don't get a sense from anybody in caucus or in the membership that I've been speaking to that there is any mood to change course right now," Cullen told reporters.

Other MPs were less definitive but still insist they will support Mulcair as long as he is leader.

For his part, Mulcair is working to bring the party back to its roots. In his speech Tuesday he hammered the party's "social democratic vision for Canada," from universal healthcare to the environment to fighting poverty.

Mulcair has also railed against banks, the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, and large American corporations in recent days.

He has not set a target for the leadership review or said what number he will need to hit to stay on as leader.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at paul.mcleod@buzzfeed.com.

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