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Mr. Ryan, a former president of both the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario Federation of Labour, says he will look at the work done by supporters who created a website pushing him in to run for NDP leader.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

There is just one registered candidate in the race to lead the federal NDP but a number of high-profile New Democrats are weighing their options including former union leader Sid Ryan who says he would shift the party back to the left.

Mr. Ryan, a former president of both the Canadian Union of Public Employees's Ontario wing and the Ontario Federation of Labour, says he has not made up his mind about launching a campaign. But a web page created by his supporters is pushing him in that direction.

Last week, the site listed the names of more than a hundred key members of the party – riding association executives and union leaders – who have given him their endorsement.

The creators of the website "have put together a platform that reflects the values and the principles that I fought for," Mr. Ryan said in a telephone interview. "I am giving it consideration based on the work that these folks have put into it and the type of people they are attracting across the country."

The platform includes such things as free postsecondary tuition, a re-examination of free-trade deals which Mr. Ryan says have cost Canadian jobs, an economic policy not centred on "austerity" and open promotion of the rights of Palestinians.

"There is a real opportunity for a party of the left that goes back to its socialist roots and starts to articulate those kinds of policies," Mr. Ryan said.

The New Democrats moved closer to the centre under former leader Jack Layton and have remained there under current leader Tom Mulcair – to the consternation of some party members who complained they were campaigning to the right of the Liberals during the 2015 election.

The leadership vote will not take place until October but the party is organizing a series of debates that will begin on March 12. So far, British Columbia MP Peter Julian is the only official candidate.

Mr. Ryan has run for the NDP in three provincial and two federal election campaigns without success – though he did come within a few hundred votes of the Conservatives in the federal race in Oshawa in 2004.

He may also be hampered by his inability to speak French. Mr. Ryan said those who are trying to convince him to run are proposing the concept of co-leadership with a woman from Quebec which, he said, would not eliminate the need to become bilingual as quickly as possible.

Lack of bilingualism is what is keeping Olivia Chow, the widow of Mr. Layton who was herself an MP for eight years, from putting her name forward. "Jack spent a lot of time building up the Quebec team and the caucus and the connection with the Québécois," Ms. Chow said, "so I think it is really important to have someone who is a lot more fluent than what I can do."

One bilingual New Democrat who is potentially in the mix is Guy Caron, the MP from Rimouski, Que., and a former researcher and economist with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

"I am talking with people who potentially might be supporting me. The decision is not made yet and will not be before, I would say, mid-February," Mr. Caron said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Caron was a New Democrat in Quebec before being a member of the party in that province was fashionable. He was drawn to the NDP by Mr. Layton and supported his leadership bid in 2003.

"I think we can look up to what Jack Layton did when he arrived," Mr. Caron said. "He had this unique quality of being with people and being able to inspire and make them realize what's possible and I think this is what we need at this moment."

Mr. Caron said he is weighing how a leadership run might affect his young family. He is also trying to build a competent team of people who share his vision for the country. "And obviously the fundraising question is also important," he said. "I want to make sure that I will be able to lead the campaign. I wouldn't want to leave [the race], should I decide to run."

Other names that are being floated include Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and Ontario MP Charlie Angus who says he is still assessing his chances.

"This is a very long race," said Mr. Angus. "It's going to take an enormous amount of resources to get to the finish line and, if I do [decide to run], it it has to be for the right reasons with something really clear and coherent to offer. So I am looking at this step by step and I haven't made a decision yet."