Rebecca Blaikie is the closest the New Democratic Party has to royalty.
The president of the party is the daughter of well-respected former Manitoba MP Bill Blaikie, the prairie preacher who was both an imposing physical and moral presence on Parliament Hill, and the older sister of newly elected Winnipeg MP Dan Blaikie. Jack Layton was her friend and mentor.
Since last fall's general election – and the NDP's spectacular defeat – Ms. Blaikie, 37, has played an even greater role, touring the country and listening to party members about what went wrong in the campaign and how it can be made right for 2019.
Her findings were released in a report on Thursday, and it concludes that the NDP's campaign did not have a compelling narrative and it was not prepared for the divisive debate over the wearing of the niqab.
It comes just as the NDP is preparing for its policy convention next week in Edmonton – and as Thomas Mulcair prepares to face a crucial leadership review.
Rather than steering clear of this issue, Ms. Blaikie has jumped right in.
She says it will be difficult for Mr. Mulcair to remain as leader if he receives less than 70 per cent support. "It will be an indication that there is still more work to do to continue that rebuilding and that relationship," she said in a recent interview.
The party constitution says the leader simply requires the support of 50 per cent plus one to avoid triggering a leadership convention; Mr. Mulcair has avoided commenting on a number.
It's a tricky issue, as there are precedents. For example, Joe Clark famously quit as federal Progressive Conservative leader and called a leadership convention after receiving 66.9 per cent support, believing that he needed more from his party.
And Ms. Blaikie's foray into the leadership review has raised some eyebrows. A long-time New Democrat and former party official, who asked not to be named, says NDP presidents are rarely so high-profile or dogmatic. He fears that the 70 per cent number will come back to haunt the party: What if it is 69.5 per cent?
Ms. Blaikie says it was not her intention to create controversy. "He can get less than that and stay on," she says about Mr. Mulcair. "It's not up to me. Right? I don't get to decide. That is a number that I am hearing from the membership that they imagine would be a good target."
Ms. Blaikie is the eldest of four siblings, and grew up in Winnipeg with her politician father and mother, who was a teacher. She was born a year before her father was first elected in 1979. She was 30 years old when he stepped down from federal politics.
So it was no surprise she would eventually run for office; what was a surprise was where she first chose to run. In 2004, when she was 25 years old, she ran against Liberal Paul Martin, then prime minister, in his Montreal riding.
Ms. Blaikie loves Quebec – she speaks nearly perfect Québécois and still lives in Montreal – and wanted to help raise the profile of the party in the province, and give voters in Mr. Martin's riding a chance to vote for the NDP.
She had no campaign office. Instead, she did a lot of mainstreeting and media appearances. In the end, she came in fourth, receiving 1,995 votes. "We went from 2 to 4 per cent," she says.
It was through that experience that she came to know Jack Layton. "He had this dream for breaking through in Quebec, and I totally bought into that dream."
After the 2004 election, Ms. Blaikie stayed on to organize in Quebec, and in 2011 the party had that breakthrough, winning 59 of 75 seats.
Mr. Layton's dream was realized, but for her that was the silver lining, as her bid to win a seat in Winnipeg fell short by just 44 votes.
Difficult as Mr. Layton's death was, it inspired her to continue working for the party. In 2011, she was appointed party president; in 2013, she ran for the position and won.
Looking back on the 2015 election, Ms. Blaikie believes that a combination of factors led to the NDP's defeat, including an "overarching message" from the campaign that did not inspire voters and a strong Liberal campaign that did, managing to connect with a whole new set of voters.
The niqab issue "hurt us a lot," she says.
Mr. Mulcair was unwavering in his support for women being allowed to wear a veil at citizenship ceremonies.
"I think the position was the right one and, unfortunately, the way that it ended up being communicated turned a lot of folks off," Ms. Blaikie says. "To Tom's credit, he was very, very principled on that stand, but we were out of sync with 80 per cent of Quebeckers."
Next weekend at the convention, Ms. Blaikie will step down as president. She has not ruled out running again for political office. "I am open to the possibility," she says. "I don't have any specific plan at this time. I do feel called to public service and if that turns out to be a good way to do it in the future, [I will]."