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British Columbia Thomas Mulcair tells B.C. convention NDP ready for ‘real change’

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair arrives at the B.C. NDP convention to a standing ovation in Vancouver on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says his party is on the right side of the public mood for change that resulted in the ousting of the former Conservative government, suggesting New Democrats will advance a progressive approach to such issues as an inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women and electoral reform.

Mr. Mulcair made the declaration Sunday in a speech to hundreds of provincial New Democrats in British Columbia gathered for their last convention before the 2017 provincial election in which the governing B.C. Liberals will be seeking a fifth consecutive mandate.

The NDP Leader found a sympathetic audience. As federal New Democrats come to grips with falling from second to third place in Parliament, their B.C. counterparts continue to deal with the outcome of the 2013 provincial election they were widely expected to win, but lost to a jobs-focused campaign by B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark.

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But Mr. Mulcair was looking forward on Sunday.

"Canadians voted for change. We embrace that desire. We're ready to work together to bring real change, concrete change to Ottawa because there is, indeed, so much that needs to be done," Mr. Mulcair told about 800 delegates, who greeted him with sustained applause.

He cited an agenda that includes ending the first-past-the-post electoral system, a "respectful" nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations, and an inquiry on murdered and missing indigenous women. He acknowledged he expects the Liberal government will act on that file, "but we need to get it done right" by working with families.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, appointed to cabinet last week, appears to agree. "It needs to be done right," she said of the in-the-works inquiry in an interview with The Globe and Mail last week, calling for a "respectful" process that will generate something "substantive" for affected families.

"A meaningful exercise is something that, in my mind, is created in partnership with indigenous communities, the families of the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls," she said.

A reference to the Trans-Pacific Partnership elicited boos from the audience and Mr. Mulcair went on to call for the immediate release of the full text of the deal including side agreements.

Talking to reporters after the speech, Mr. Mulcair said he had not yet had a chance to speak at length with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the election, but that he especially looks forward to working with Mr. Trudeau and his government on climate change.

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Mr. Mulcair told New Democrats he would be "proud" to travel with the new government to Paris for the upcoming conference on climate change, but results would depend on establishing and achieving "hard targets."

In last month's federal election, New Democrats in British Columbia held their vote from the 2011 election with a 33.3-per-cent share of the popular vote – on par with the 32.5 per cent four years ago when Canadians last went to the polls.

At dissolution, the NDP had 12 of British Columbia's 36 seats. The party won 14 seats as redistribution grew the number of B.C. seats by six.

"This has been a campaign that, as you know, has had ups and downs but here in British Columbia, it has been mostly ups," Mr. Mulcair said.

Mr. Mulcair said the goal of the election was to stop then-Conservative leader Stephen Harper. "I guess that was job one and it's accomplished because he's no longer there."

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