The NDP's interim leader Nycole Turmel said Tuesday the party will honour Jack Layton's vision, which brought the party unprecedented support in Quebec in the last federal election.
"Quebec people as well as Canadian people voted for a vision," said Turmel, speaking in the foyer of the House of Commons. "We believe, all of us, that why we ran with Jack Layton was because we believed in what he was presenting, so we'll carry on and defend that."
Thomas Mulcair, who once held the only NDP seat in Quebec, is now one of 59 NDP MPs in the province. He said that vision will guide the party and its Quebec MPs through the fall session.
"We have an extraordinary team of men and women [who] have been elected here in the province of Quebec in the last election," Mulcair said. "We've got four years to prepare for the next step. We're now the Official Opposition. We're going to be working very hard to move forward."
Before that work can begin though, Mulcair said party members must first come to terms with their loss.
"It's such a sudden sorrow," he said. "I don't think we've really taken stock of what's happened. We've lost a dear friend. We've also lost an extraordinary political leader."
Layton was the man who prompted a record number of Quebecers to vote NDP in the last election, many of them taking a leap of faith to cast their ballots for unknown and inexperienced local candidates.
One new MP, Helene Laverdière, said Layton's connection to youth will remain one of the party's strengths.
"He was looking towards the future," she said. "That will be the future in which young people will be living."
Mulcair said the party remains committed to the ideas Layton promoted during the last election.
"What Quebecers had connected with in terms of values, fairness, a more just society, is something we have to continue in our work," he said.
Vincent Marissal, a political columnist for the French daily newspaper La Presse, said the NDP's more experienced MPs will play an important role in the party's future.
"Many are efficient and strong politicians," he said. "So I don't think it'll be so bad. They will manage, but they will go through a difficult time."