NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said his caucus has emerged united from a retreat in Montreal that began with questions about whether he should stay at the head of the party until members choose his permanent replacement in October 2017.
"In a world that can be a bit cold, it is very heartwarming to have the unanimous support of your colleagues," he said at the conclusion of the gathering Thursday.
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Prior to the retreat, NDP MPs were asking what Mulcair had been doing during the summer as party fundraising fell behind and poll numbers sank during the Liberal government's first-year honeymoon.
"When you go through a week where people are saying all sorts of things — supposedly anonymous sources — you're sorting of going, OK, what's this about?" Mulcair said.
"Then you get into caucus and you get the unanimous support of your colleagues and you can do exactly what you set out to do. I had offered to take on this job in a very tough situation."
Following the disappointing results of the 2015 election, the NDP membership voted for a leadership review of Mulcair in April — initiating a leadership contest.
Mulcair said he sees himself as a caretaker leader, keeping the NDP's finances and organization in good order for his successor.
The novelty that contributes to the popularity of Justin Trudeau's government will start fading soon, Mulcair said.
The NDP will make sure the Liberals answer for what Mulcair called the lack of progress on reducing greenhouse gases, funding for Indigenous education and pay equity in the federal government.
"We think Mr. Trudeau's still got a lot of answers to give to Canadians. They master style, but we're going to be talking a lot about substance as well and that's what caucus has asked me to do."
Mulcair also said the NDP is willing to praise Trudeau for following through on progressive projects such as the summer youth jobs program and the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Mulcair had been criticized before the leadership vote in April — and even during the 2015 electoral campaign — with abandoning the party's socialist roots to appeal to centrist voters.
At the opening of the retreat, Mulcair said the core values of the NDP are "environmentalism, pacificism, feminism and socialism."
On Thursday, he said socialism had always been part of the NDP's identity, but there are many paths into the party.
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"It doesn't matter what angle you come at your progressive views from," he said. "I came into the party largely because of my environmental activism, but I've also always been a strong pacifist. This is part of who I am. So we come at it from different angles, what we're always saying is it's people first and foremost."