Tom Mulcair's leadership in question as NDP caucus meets in Montreal

The NDP is struggling with internal issues including dwindling fundraising, slumping poll numbers and questions about leadership ahead of its caucus meeting in Montreal this week.

Mulcair insists he'll stay on until 2017 despite slumping polls and poor fundraising

Some members of the NDP, frustrated with Tom Mulcair's low profile over the summer, are calling for the leader to go sooner rather than later. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The federal NDP is trying to find a path through political weeds to the fall sitting of Parliament, with plans to focus on issues including climate change and health-accord negotiations.

The bruised party, still licking its wounds nearly a year after the last election, is struggling with internal issues including dwindling fundraising, slumping poll numbers and questions about leadership ahead of its caucus meetings Tuesday and Wednesday in Montreal.

There is a concerted push underway by some caucus members who want Mulcair removed as leader immediately, said multiple sources who spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity for fear of being seen as openly critical of their chief.

For his part, Mulcair insists he will remain at the helm until a new leader takes over in fall 2017.

Charlie Angus, caucus chair and the party's indigenous affairs critic, said he is hopeful the NDP can find a way beyond internal differences so it can instead focus on the Liberal government.

NDP MP Charlie Angus says he hopes the party's caucus can overcome its divisions at the caucus retreat in Montreal this week. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"I have been speaking with MPs who are concerned about the lack of direction in the party over the last six months, but there is a real desire to work through these issues and ensure that this interim period with an interim leader keeps us focused and unified," he said.

The NDP has endured challenging times before, Angus noted. "We went through a traumatic period after the death of Jack (Layton) and people remember the role Nycole Turmel played in keeping us unified — I am hoping that the meeting in Montreal will set us on that track."

The Mulcair matter has certainly divided current and former caucus members, according to former New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer.

Stoffer, who was defeated in the last federal election, said he is saddened by what happened to Mulcair.

'Punched him in the gut'

In April, rank-and-file New Democrats flatly rejected Mulcair as a long-term leader for the party at a convention held in Edmonton.

"The party really punched him in the gut as far as I am concerned," Stoffer said. "I supported him without reservation."

Stoffer said he would advise Mulcair to walk away as leader at this time.

"He doesn't have to put up with this crap," Stoffer said. "He's a proud man, he's done a lot of good for the party ... maybe him and his wife will get a good night's sleep and enjoy each other's company."

Former MP Peter Stoffer and sitting NDP MP Ruth-Ellen Brosseau say the NDP caucus should put questions about Tom Mulcair's leadership aside ahead of their retreat in Montreal. (Canadian Press)

Quebec NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who has not ruled out running for leader, said Monday she believes Mulcair has enough support to stay on.

"He's still leader and I think it is going to stay that way," Brosseau said. "I've always supported Tom."

Some of the NDP's current woes are post-election challenges that will take time to resolve, says McMaster University political science professor Peter Graefe.

Even if a change was made at the top, it might not make a noticeable difference, he added.

"On this date last year, many of them would have been thinking they were heading for government," Graefe said.

"I think what might be more effective is if they thought of some kind of strategy to engage their members who presumably are likewise a bit depressed in terms of what happened last year and find some way to give them a sense of hope or participation in the process of selecting a new leader."

So far, there are no candidates in the NDP leadership race.