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Support is shown for Tom Mulcair on Friday during the 2016 NDP Federal Convention in Edmonton,

CODIE MCLACHLAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair spent the first day at his party's convention working the room and meeting with members in a last-ditch attempt to drum up enough support to survive a leadership review on Sunday.

"Things have been going well," Mr. Mulcair said as he arrived at a convention centre in downtown Edmonton, holding hands with his wife, Catherine Pinhas Mulcair. "We're confident that all members of the NDP are going to have great debates this weekend."

Among the topics up for discussion: Mr. Mulcair's leadership.

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While some within the party believe Mr. Mulcair can win 70 per cent of the vote or more, other insiders do not think he will score much more than 55 or 60 per cent when the almost 1,800 delegates attending the convention cast their ballots.

And many say they just don't know.

"Edmonton is as divided, and questioning and undecided as everybody else," Edmonton MP Linda Duncan, the party's only federal representative in Alberta, said.

Ms. Duncan, who isn't taking a public position on the leadership issue, said she is urging people to vote for whatever makes them comfortable.

"In the end for the sake of the party, they need to feel like they made the best choice," she said.

The convention kicked off Friday afternoon with speeches, including one from Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff, who previously said Mr. Mulcair does not deserve another term as leader.

But Mr. Yussuff steered clear of mentioning Mr. Mulcair's leadership when he addressed the room, although he did say that elections aren't won "during Question Period."

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"I think it was a historical failure for the party in the last election. More importantly I think we need to figure out where do we go from here, how do we rebuild this party starting on Sunday," Mr. Yussuff told The Globe after the speech.

Mr. Yussuff added that he's willing to listen to what Mr. Mulcair has to say on Sunday, but doubts it will change his mind.

Some union leaders are upset with Mr. Yussuff's public stand against Mr. Mulcair, noting that 80 per cent of the CLC's affiliate union members support Mr. Mulcair.

Douglas O'Halloran, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, the largest union in Alberta, sent a letter to Mr. Yussuff this week saying his comments regarding Mr. Mulcair were "unacceptable, irresponsible and frankly stupid."

"We need to be supporting him as leader. There is no one who can step into this role to do a better job," the letter, provided to The Globe and Mail by the NDP, says.

NDP members will also be debating policies over the weekend to chart the party's course over the next few years – including the broad-ranging "Leap Manifesto," which advocates for a reduced reliance on fossil fuels and an end to all trade deals. The Leap resolution was amended on Friday to include a reference to modifying policies according to the "needs of various communities."

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A resolution in support of the manifesto, put forward by former MPs Craig Scott and Libby Davies, as well as filmmaker Avi Lewis, urges riding associations to debate its contents in the lead-up to the 2018 convention. The resolution will be debated and voted upon before Mr. Mulcair's speech on Sunday.

British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen, who ran for the NDP leadership in 2012, told reporters he is supporting Mr. Mulcair.

"He ticks the boxes for things that I think are really important right now: to be able to hold a government to account, to be able to articulate a progressive set of values," he said.

Mr. Cullen added that he believes the questions of "intelligence and competence" will be central to the next election campaign in 2019. He said if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's ambitious promises for electoral reform and combatting climate change are not met, progressive voters will come back to the NDP.

"If Mr. Trudeau disappoints on that, I think the love affair will be somewhat short-lived," he said.

The youth wing of the NDP on Thursday decided not to publicly call for new leadership, after Mr. Mulcair spoke to the Young New Democrats for almost an hour.

Jacob Schweda, 26, of the NDP McGill University Campus Club, put forward the resolution to call for new leadership. He believes Mr. Mulcair "said a lot of the right things" to the youth delegates, such as opening up channels of communication between young people and party itself.

But Mr. Schweda said it all "rang a bit hollow" for him.

"We don't know which Tom is talking. If it's the Tom from the election campaign, or this progressive new Tom who wants to keep the leadership," he said.

"I think there's definitely division in the party."

Ruth Kaufman, 86, a delegate from Guelph, Ont., has been a member of the NDP since 1955, when it was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

She said she's unsure of how she'll vote on Sunday, but she doesn't blame Mr. Mulcair for the mistakes of the campaign.

"This party has never been known for dumping its leaders to begin with," she said. "So I think I'll wait and see."

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