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At NDP Quebec caucus meeting, the buzz is about leadership Add to ...

Thomas Mulcair’s candidacy for the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party is not yet official but it appears more inevitable with each passing day.

Going into a meeting of the Quebec wing of the NDP caucus on Tuesday, Mr. Mulcair said he was building a team, assembling an organization and soliciting support from across the country. But he wasn’t prepared to make an official announcement.

“I’ve got tremendous people from across Canada who have come on board and who are encouraging me to run. And I haven’t announced a final decision yet. That will come within the next couple of weeks,” Mr. Mulcair said.

The longer he waits, the stronger the possibility that others will beat him to the punch in the race to replace Jack Layton, who died of cancer last month.

Party president Brian Topp was the first to enter the race on Monday. Northern Quebec MP Roméo Saganash, the 49-year-old Cree leader, may be the second, saying he was still “hesitating” but that he will be delivering an “important” speech on Friday to announce his intentions.

Should Mr. Saganash decide to run for the leadership, he could attract key Quebec caucus supporters away from Mr. Mulcair. With Gatineau MP Françoise Boivin backing Mr. Topp and Mr. Saganash considering running, it may be a signal that the Quebec wing is more divided than believed over Mr. Mulcair’s candidacy.

British Columbia MP Peter Julian, the current interim caucus president, said like many others he is weighing the personal and financial considerations involved in running for the leadership. Mr. Julian is in no rush to make a decision, however, noting that in the 2003 leadership race candidates took up to two months before deciding.

“I wouldn’t call it a hesitation,” Mr. Julian said. “It is only normal to take the time to consult. ... Just look at what happened to Ken Dryden [when he ran for the Liberal leadership] ... He ended up with an enormous debt.”

Some caucus members appeared to be worried that the six-month leadership race leading up to the March 24 vote could create dissent within party ranks that could distract the NDP from mounting an effective opposition to the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

The head of the Quebec wing of the NDP caucus, Guy Caron, acknowledged the difficulties of handling responsibilities in Parliament while caucus members are overwhelmed by the leadership race. But he expressed confidence that the spirit and memory of Jack Layton will act as bond to maintain party unity.

“People will have in mind the philosophy and vision that Jack Layton wanted to build. This is something that will unify us,” he said.

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