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NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair answers a question during a press conference in in Ottawa, Wednesday Nov. 19, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The NDP is shuffling its campaign and parliamentary teams as Leader Thomas Mulcair brings in fresh blood to get his party back on track.

New Democrats acknowledge they've hit a rough patch in recent months, as veteran MPs Libby Davies and Yvon Godin retired, and former caucus chair Glenn Thibeault left to run for the Ontario Liberals.

Mr. Mulcair announced plans for a national daycare program and a new federal minimum wage in the fall, but the NDP agenda was overtaken by events in October.

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"Our fall strategy was going well until the shooting in Parliament, but then it became more difficult, especially once you factored in the ensuing harassment controversy [involving NDP and Liberal MPs]," a party strategist said.

The strategist said the shuffle of advisers and senior staffers aims to "add some muscle to the pre-electoral and electoral teams."

NDP veterans Brad Lavigne and Michael Balagus will start working for Mr. Mulcair and try to beef up the party's ties with its base in English-Canada, especially in Ontario.

Mr. Lavigne was the national campaign director during the NDP's 2011 breakthrough, and was known for his close ties to former party leader Jack Layton and other members of his entourage.

Mr. Lavigne currently works at Hill + Knowlton Strategies, but is now set to work as a volunteer "senior campaign adviser" with the party's national director, Anne McGrath, in this election year.

Mr. Balagus will continue in his current role as chief of staff to Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, but he will also start advising the federal NDP and play a prominent part during the next election.

"Once the campaign starts, he will be our war-room guy," the NDP official said.

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Mr. Balagus was chief of staff in the Manitoba premier's offices of Gary Doer and Greg Selinger, and is credited with helping Ms. Horwath win a confidence vote after her underwhelming performance in the last Ontario election. He is also well-known in union circles, having been the CEO of the Ontario Nurses' Association, and with New Democrats across Canada.

Mr. Mulcair is also shuffling his office with the hiring of a new chief of staff, Alain Gaul, who has left his position as a partner at Montreal law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg.

Mr. Gaul worked in the same position when Mr. Mulcair was the minister of environment in Quebec City from 2003 to 2005. He was also a senior adviser on Mr. Mulcair's 2012 leadership campaign.

New Democrats are touting his expertise in financial matters, but also his experience in running a government department.

Mr. Gaul is replacing Raoul Gebert, who has been chief of staff since Mr. Mulcair replaced Mr. Layton in 2012. Mr. Gebert will continue to work with the NDP, but he will focus on his expertise in Quebec, where he used to preside over the party's provincial wing.

The NDP has worked hard to protect its Quebec base, made up almost entirely of rookies elected during the 2011 Orange Wave. However, the party's performance has been weaker in the rest of the country under Mr. Mulcair, where he is not as well known.

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The NDP Leader will announce the changes as part of a caucus meeting in Ottawa. The NDP is holding a working dinner Wednesday evening, and a formal caucus on Thursday.

The party is planning to focus on economic issues and jobs in the coming sitting of Parliament, as oil prices drop and affect the government's ability to balance its budget.

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