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Nathan Cullen speaks in the House of Commons on Dec. 5, 2012.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Another early favourite has taken himself out of the NDP leadership race, with popular B.C. MP Nathan Cullen announcing that he didn't feel he was up for the 15-month campaign.

"It had to be, simply, about what is my heart telling me, what's my head telling me and what's my family telling me," Mr. Cullen told reporters in the foyer of the House on Friday. "I couldn't get it to that place where I knew the conviction was strong enough."

Mr. Cullen is joining former NDP MP Megan Leslie on the sidelines of the race to replace Thomas Mulcair, leaving a wide-open field for the crown of third-party leader.

Mr. Cullen finished in third place in the 2012 race to replace Jack Layton, but his high-energy performance at the time propelled him to the top of much of the speculation when Mr. Mulcair lost a confidence vote in Edmonton in April.

Mr. Cullen said he will eventually back one of the candidates, predicting strong bids from both inside and outside the party. To this point, a number of NDP MPs have said they are contemplating a bid, but no one has launched a formal campaign.

"I'd like to be engaged, I don't want to be a neutral factor in this. I want to find someone I believe in, someone who I think will bring us to the next step and get fully behind them," Mr. Cullen said.

He confirmed he had spent a lot of time in recent weeks thinking about a leadership bid, stating he had the full support of his wife if he decided to go. Throughout, he thought of his five-year-old twin boys, his northern B.C. riding and his role in helping the NDP win the next election.

"Since the moment we stood on the stage in Edmonton to this moment here today, I have been quite consumed with this question," Mr. Cullen said.

He added he announced his decision as soon as it became clear to him that he wouldn't be jumping into the race.

"I'm not one who likes to spend a lot of time in that place of uncertainty. I felt it was important that if that was my conviction, and if I felt that was what was right, rather than delay and stretch out the process and get into all of your stories as a potential candidate, it felt much more authentic and just real to say what was in my mind and my heart," he said.

He promised to continue working on files such as the environment and electoral reform, one day after striking a deal with the Liberals to reshape the parliamentary committee that will develop plans for a new voting system in Canada.

"One aspect of this decision today, and it's a good aspect for me, is that it allows me the total commitment to the process ... on helping create and form with Canadians a new electoral system," he said.

He added he is not looking at going into provincial politics and plans to run federally in 2019.

The NDP will select its new leader in the fall of 2017. After a second-place showing with Mr. Layton at the helm in 2011, the NDP lost more than half its seats in last October's election under Mr. Mulcair.