Tom Mulcair is facing additional pressure as he prepares for his first leadership test since the NDP fell to third place in the past federal election, after party president Rebecca Blaikie signalled he'll need at least 70-per-cent support to stay on as leader.
"When the party president lays down the marker, it's going to be the marker that everybody's looking at," New Democrat MP Charlie Angus said in an interview.
"Certainly people are very frustrated about the loss last year."
Earlier this week, Ms. Blaikie told SiriusXM's Everything is Political show that she believes Mr. Mulcair "needs to reach 70 in order to stay, and that will be a challenging number. He will still have work to do."
On Friday, she appeared to backtrack from those comments. Ms. Blaikie is also preparing a review of the federal campaign, to be released by the end of March, and said the review will not contain specific numbers about Mr. Mulcair's support.
"I have been travelling across the country listening to members about our campaign in order to learn lessons and avoid repeating mistakes in future elections. I've heard the number 70 come up a few times but let me be perfectly clear: the final election review will NOT contain a threshold for the vote," she wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.
"My focus is a thorough, unvarnished review of the campaign so that we can be ready to move forward together as social democrats."
New Democrats attending the party's convention in Edmonton the weekend of April 8 will be asked to vote on whether there should be a leadership race. Anything more than 50 per cent would trigger a race – which Mr. Mulcair could still enter.
But some say 50 per cent is not exactly a high bar to set.
"If a leader were to go through a review and get just slightly over half, it certainly wouldn't be seen as a ringing endorsement," NDP MP Nathan Cullen said.
There is also concern the convention will be more sparse than usual, in part because of provincial elections occurring in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba around the same time. "Unfortunately it will affect some of the sense of enthusiasm, which I'm worried about," Mr. Angus said.
Mr. Mulcair was not available for an interview Friday, his spokesman said. But in a letter released to supporters this week, Mr. Mulcair said he takes full responsibility for the "shortcomings" in the campaign, which saw the party's seat count drop to 44 from 95.
"I could have done a better job," he wrote.
Going into the convention, Mr. Angus says it will be up to the party's membership – not fellow politicians – to decide Mr. Mulcair's fate.
"We don't stab the leader behind the curtain when nobody's looking," Mr. Angus said.
"There aren't any plots under way right now for other leadership contenders, because Tom is the leader and it's his right to go to convention and get his mandate. If Tom doesn't have a mandate, well then obviously other scenarios are going to come forward."