Justin Trudeau's popularity expected, doesn't worry NDP

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says the popularity of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is no surprise, given he's still relatively new to the party's leadership.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says it's part of normal arc for new party leader

The popularity of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is no surprise to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who says he predicted it a year ago. New Democrat MPs were presented Tuesday with an analysis of polling numbers for Trudeau and previous Liberal leaders that suggest the party isn't far behind. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says the popularity of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is no surprise, given he's still relatively new to the party's leadership.

Mulcair spoke to reporters Tuesday at the NDP's summer caucus retreat in Saskatoon. While the day was dominated by talk of Quebec's proposed charter of values, Mulcair held an extended question and answer session with reporters, covering various subjects including the Liberals and how to prepare first-time MPs for an election two years away.

Asked about the Liberal Party's lead in recent polls — ahead of both the Conservatives and NDP — Mulcair said it's not a concern for him.

"It's actually something I predicted in so many words with our caucus a year ago. I knew that this was the arc, the cadence of the year to come," he said, pointing out the parties are still two years away from the next federal election, with a fixed date in October 2015.

"We know exactly what we have to do. We know the themes that are carrying us through, we know what got us to the position of Official Opposition for the first time," Mulcair said.

He refused to answer further questions about Trudeau, giving one-sentence responses when pressed on why the Liberal leader is popular right now.

MPs compare Liberal poll numbers

Numbers presented to the NDP caucus today suggest Mulcair has reason not to get worked up about Trudeau's current popularity.

Life of Pi author Yann Martel addressed NDP MPs at the party's national caucus strategy session Tuesday in Saskatoon. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Researchers put together the best personal polling results for the Liberals under former leaders Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, as well as for Justin Trudeau, and compared them with what they ended up with before stepping down: the Liberals under Dion fell from a high of 40.1 per cent to 26.3 per cent, while under Ignatieff they fell from 37.2 per cent to a low of 18.9 per cent.

The NDP also compared the Liberal and New Democrat poll numbers under previous leaders two years before the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. With the Liberals under Dion at 40.1 per cent, the NDP were back 30 points at 10.2 per cent. The Liberals under Ignatieff were 22 points ahead of the NDP, with the New Democrats at 15.7 per cent. Currently, the Trudeau-led Liberals, at 35.7 per cent, are 11 points ahead of the NDP, which is at 24.8 per cent.

Finally, the party compared Trudeau's personal numbers right after he was chosen Liberal leader with his current numbers. Polls done by three separate firms show Trudeau's popularity has dropped anywhere from two points to nine points in the past five months.

Mulcair said the party asked its MPs to "door-knock" — go door-to-door to speak to constituents — on 3,000 doors in their ridings over the summer.

"It was actually an objective that we're setting," he said, relating that former Saskatchewan NDP premiers Lorne Calvert and Roy Romanow told MPs Monday night that the three rules for getting re-elected are "door-knocking, door-knocking and door-knocking."

MPs, he said, have three different jobs — the parliamentary function in Ottawa, the constituency MP job, and the job of contributing to party policy — and New Democrat MPs have been fulfilling all of those roles.