NDP Leader Tom Mulcair laid out his priorities for the return of Parliament and vowed to defend social democratic values in a speech to his caucus in Montebello, Que., signaling a shift back to the party's traditional focus.
The party has spent the last three months reviewing the disappointing election results that saw the party relegated from Official Opposition to third-place status and will hold a leadership review in April. The NDP constitution calls for an automatic leadership review every two years.
"We will not abandon the social democratic vision for Canada. We will not lose sight of who we are and who we fight for," Mulcair told his MPs at the Chateau Montebello Tuesday morning.
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Mulcair's speech was also intended to blunt any further criticism that the NDP has shifted too far to the centre and abandoned its principles under his leadership.
"As part of this fight, I've committed to making anti-scab legislation one of our first opposition bills," Mulcair said to thunderous applause.
The party's move back to the left began in earnest after the election, when Mulcair started referring to the NDP as "Canada's progressive opposition."
"We are a strong group of progressive MPs," Mulcair said Tuesday, adding that "as social democrats, we will continue to fight inequality wherever it exists."
Mulcair said the NDP will be relentless in its fight for affordable child care and universal health care.
"It's in our DNA," he said.
Election debrief coming
Mulcair also told MPs it will be important to "effectively" communicate the party's vision to Canadians — something the party said it was not able to do during the election campaign.
Party president Rebecca Blaikie will hold an election debrief with NDP supporters during an online "town hall" this Thursday.
Defeated NDP MP Paul Dewar, who was named senior transition adviser following the Oct. 19 election and tasked with helping Blaikie with the review, said he would be meeting with her later this week.
"We had challenges in terms of getting the message out," Dewar said of the feedback he's received from New Democrats. "That is an important focus for us our right now."
Asked how the party's promise to balance the budget went over its base, Dewar said "it distracted, I think, from our platform."
MPs 'united' Mulcair
If party members are calling for Mulcair to resign, there was no sign of it in Montebello, where MPs were complimentary of their leaders' performance during the election campaign.
"Thomas' performance was exceptional," said Nathan Cullen, one of three current MPs who ran against him for the leadership of the party in 2012.
But with rumours of his impending resignation swirling, Mulcair held a news conference in Ottawa on Monday where he said that resigning hadn't crossed his mind and that he will ask New Democrats for their support when he faces a leadership review in Edmonton in April.
"I know that that support can be there, I sense that it is there, but I'm not taking anything for granted," Mulcair said in Ottawa on Monday. "I'm going to continue to work tirelessly ... to get their support."
Asked if he was confident Mulcair would survive a leadership review, NDP MP Peter Julian told reporters on Tuesday "yes."
"We are a united caucus. Tom Mulcair is the leader, democratically elected by the members," said the party's Quebec lieutenant, Alexandre Boulerice.
Mulcair said he has been consulting the party base and will continue to do so even as Parliament returns next week.
New caucus chair
The party announced Tuesday morning that MPs had elected Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus national caucus chair.
Angus, who was first elected to represent the riding of Timmins–Baie James in 2004, was a musician, writer and broadcaster prior to his political career. He's best known as a vocal critic on ethics issues and has performed well for the party in the House and on committees. He's currently the critic for indigenous and northern affairs, as well as economic development in Northern Ontario.
"I'm honoured to have the support of my colleagues and I will represent them with conviction and energy," said Angus in a release.
Second-term Quebec MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau was elected vice-chair of the caucus, representing its still-sizeable contingent from that province. The MP for Berthier–Maskinongé is the party's agriculture critic.
The House of Commons resumes on Monday after a five-week recess.