NDP aftermath: An early look at potential candidates to replace Tom Mulcair

After this weekend's national convention rejected Tom Mulcair's leadership, the federal New Democrats have given themselves two years to choose a new leader to move the party forward. Here's an early look at some possible contenders.

Mulcair will remain party leader until a successor is chosen within 24 months

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair waves to the crowd after his speech at the party's national convention in Edmonton on Sunday. Now that the party has voted to hold a leadership election, who will come forward to succeed him? (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

After this weekend's national convention showed a party divided over Tom Mulcair's leadership, the federal New Democrats will be looking for a new leader and a new way forward.

A majority of NDP delegates — 52 per cent — voted in favour of holding a leadership contest, signalling that Mulcair had lost the support of his party.

"We said it at the outset — and it's still the case now — that the only important thing is that we leave here united," Mulcair told those gathered on the convention floor at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre after the ballots were cast.

We will always be the party that dreams no small dreams. We will always be the party that thinks about the little guy … Don't let this very-divided vote divide us."

Mulcair will remain the party's leader until a successor is chosen within 24 months. Though there's plenty of time to spare before contenders start throwing their hats in the ring, here's an early look at some potential candidates:

Niki Ashton

A three-term MP who represents the northern Manitoba riding of Churchill–Keewatinook Aski, Ashton was first elected in 2008 and currently serves as the NDP's jobs, employment and workforce development critic. Fluent in four languages, the 33-year-old is a former instructor with the University College of the North and currently working toward a PhD in peace and conflict studies. Ashton is also the daughter of Manitoba cabinet minister Steve Ashton. She ran for the NDP leadership during the 2012 race that elected Mulcair.

Alexandre Boulerice

First elected to the House of Commons in 2011 in the so-called "Orange Wave" that swept Quebec, Boulerice, 42, successfully won back his Montreal seat of Rosemont–La Petite Patriein in October's federal election by a healthy margin. The former TV journalist and union activist has been active with the party since the late 1990s and was co-chair of the NDP's 2015 national election campaign. Prior to Sunday's vote, he had expressed his support for Mulcair.

Guy Caron

Another MP first elected in 2011, the 47-year-old Caron holds the riding of Rimouski-Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basques. He mounted three unsuccessful bids for a seat in Ottawa before that win. Caron currently holds one of the party's top critic roles, finance, in addition to serving as critic of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Prior to joining Parliament, Caron was a researcher and economist with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

Nathan Cullen

The five-term MP was first elected to his B.C. riding of Skeena–Bulkley Valley in 2004. Cullen has previously served as the NDP's House leader and currently holds the high-profile posts of environment and climate change critic and democratic reform critic. While Cullen, 43, expressed his support for Mulcair before Sunday's vote, he also hasn't shied away from sharing his thoughts about the party's future. Cullen placed third in the party's 2012 leadership race.

Peter Julian

Another B.C. MP first elected in 2004, Julian is the current NDP House leader. He's also served as party critic for a number of high-profile portfolios, including finance, trade, transport and energy and natural resources. The 53-year-old holds the riding of Burnaby–New Westminster and is fluently bilingual, having attended university in Quebec and serving as the NDP's provincial secretary for that province in the 1990s. He mulled — but ultimately decided against — a party leadership run in 2012.

Mike Layton

The son of former NDP leader Jack Layton is an environmentalist-turned-Toronto-city-councillor who acknowledges his progressive politics are similar to that of his late father. He represents the Toronto ward of Trinity-Spadina, previously held at the federal level by his stepmother, Olivia Chow. Relatively new to public side of politics, Layton moved many Canadians with a touching tribute during his dad's 2011 funeral, saying he and his sister were "proud to have shared our father with you."

Megan Leslie

First elected to the riding of Halifax in 2008, Leslie took over the seat from former NDP leader Alexa McDonough. But the 42-year-old lost her bid for re-election to Liberal rookie Andy Fillmore last year, admitting she was "100 per cent" shocked by the result. A former health and environment critic for her party, Leslie recently joined WWF Canada as a senior consultant on ocean governance so she's still around Ottawa.

Avi Lewis

A documentary filmmaker and TV journalist, Lewis is one of the big names behind the Leap Manifesto, a 1,300-word statement of principles aimed at overhauling Canada's economy and moving away from reliance on fossil fuels. His wife, best-selling author Naomi Klein, also signed her name to the document. While Lewis recently said a possible leadership bid is the "furthest thing" from his mind right now, he's no stranger to campaigning; he first hit the election trail with his father, the diplomat and former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis, at age eight. 

Peggy Nash

The former MP and former NDP president lost her Toronto seat of Parkdale–High Park last October by a margin of about 1,000 votes. The seat has flip-flopped in recent years: Nash was first elected in 2006 before losing to Liberal Gerard Kennedy in 2008. She won a rematch of that race in 2011 and was appointed finance critic in the NDP's first showing as Official Opposition. A veteran of the labour movement, Nash ran for the party's leadership in 2012. The 62-year-old also didn't mince words following her party's stunning defeat last fall: in a recent op-ed published on Huffington Post, she wrote that the national NDP campaign "let us down in spectacular fashion," calling it "tone deaf" and "incompetent." 

Brian Topp

The 55-year-old veteran political and union strategist was runner-up to Mulcair during 2012's leadership race. Once a member of Jack Layton's inner circle, Topp has served as New Democrat party president, its national campaign director and as a war room manager in four different elections. Born in Quebec, he's fluently bilingual and has worked in Ontario, Saskatchewan and now Alberta, where he is currently chief of staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. Some suggested Topp lost the 2012 race for being too radical, especially compared to Mulcair's more moderate stance. In the wake of the party's disappointing election result last fall, others say it could be an opportune time for Topp to take another run — but Topp himself posted on Facebook Monday that "I won't be a candidate in the coming leadership race."