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NDP Leader Tom Mulcair sent a letter to New Democrats on Saturday in which he indicated he will push for improvements to health care, a better relationship with indigenous peoples and enhanced environmental protection.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The federal New Democrats are adjusting to life with fewer resources and a return to third-party status after more than half their caucus was lost in last week's election.

But the NDP has some experience at playing third or fourth fiddle in the Commons, and party officials said on Monday that they intend to make a significant impact over the next four years despite the downturn in their political fortunes.

"Even though it is a disappointing seat total, it's still the second largest NDP contingent we've had in the House of Commons, and we will be putting that to good use," New Democrat House Leader Peter Julian said of the 44 members who will sit on his party's benches when Parliament returns.

"As far as the NDP is concerned, we're picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off and getting right back to work," Mr. Julian said.

Paul Dewar, who was among the veteran New Democrats to lose their seats, will be NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's senior transition adviser. Party officials point out that Mr. Dewar, who was first elected in 2006, was an MP before the NDP caucus swelled to 103 members in 2011, and knows how to make do with less.

Because the NDP is no longer the Official Opposition, its funding is about to be significantly reduced. That means some of Mr. Mulcair's workers will get their walking papers. Mr. Dewar will help decide who is needed and the best way to function in the new, streamlined environment.

He has been given four major responsibilities: Reorganizing the leader's office, preparing the NDP shadow cabinet, organizing a strategy session for the new caucus that will take place before Parliament's return and preparing for the new session by helping Mr. Mulcair set the party's priorities.

In an interview with The Canadian Press on Monday, Mr. Mulcair said refusing to back Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's ban on niqabs at citizenship ceremonies was one of the defining moments of his political career, even though the position may have cost his party some support in Quebec.

Mr. Mulcair said he thought it was wrong to divide Canadians on issues of race and religion.

"These were defining moments for me in my political career and in the campaign," Mr. Mulcair said. "And could a different result have been achieved? Perhaps. But … I'd always been a person who stood up for his convictions."

Mr. Mulcair sent a letter to New Democrats on Saturday in which he indicated he will push for improvements to health care, a better relationship with indigenous peoples and enhanced environmental protection.

The NDP Leader spoke often during the election campaign about his interest in attending the United Nations summit on climate change in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 – although he intended to do so as prime minister.

Justin Trudeau, the prime-minister-designate, has invited Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to accompany him to that event, and a news report said he intends to ask Mr. Mulcair. But, as of Monday afternoon, Mr. Mulcair had received no formal request from Mr. Trudeau.

The NDP critics will most likely be named after the Liberal cabinet ministers are sworn in on Nov. 4.

Even though many New Democrats lost their seats last week, the caucus has 16 new MPs. So, "at the same time as we do have a reduced caucus, we have very much a renewed caucus, so it's making sure that we get the right roles for each of those new members," Mr. Julian said.

Incumbent MPs who were not re-elected will spend the next week closing their offices and transferring their case files to their replacements. The new MPs, meanwhile, are getting established as federal politicians and taking over files from the departing members.

"The critics will play a really important role in providing guidance on where we think Canada should go, but also in either complimenting or criticizing where the government's going," Mr. Julian said. "Part of our role will be to make sure that Mr. Trudeau keeps his word, because he has made a whole range of commitments, and I think there are expectations that change needs to mean something."