Thomas Mulcair says he's still in shock over the death of Jack Layton – and that he'll need at least a few more weeks before deciding whether to run for the late NDP leader's job.
Mr. Mulcair, who has remained relatively quiet in the week since Mr. Layton succumbed to cancer, said he is sounding out support for a potential leadership bid.
"It's been a tough week, with the departure of my dear colleague and mentor," the NDP House Leader told reporters Tuesday before giving a speech to students at McGill University.
"I'm getting a lot of support, a lot of interest. And not just in Quebec, where the support is extremely strong.
"It's too early to say anything other than the fact I'm thinking about it, and I'm flattered by the support."
Mr. Mulcair said a key factor in his decision will be the rules the party's federal council establishes for the leadership race at a meeting in Ottawa on Sept. 9. However, he said an announcement isn't likely before the House resumes sitting Sept. 19.
"I have an enormous amount of consultation I have to do across Canada," he said, "financing has to be put in place."
While others within the NDP have agitated for the candidacy of party president Brian Topp, Mr. Mulcair has remained silent. He was visibly upset during appearances on Parliament Hill and at Jack Layton's state funeral in Toronto.
The NDP won 59 of 75 seats in Quebec under Mr. Layton's leadership. He was advised by Mr. Topp, who is originally from Quebec, but Mr. Mulcair is by far the more visible presence in the province.
Mr. Mulcair said the most important task ahead for any new leader is to build on the gains the party made in Quebec. And he brushed off talk raised by some Liberals about a possible merger between the two parties.
"You know, we tried it, and it was rejected by [the Liberals]" Mr. Mulcair said, presumably referring to the 2008 coalition agreement between Mr. Layton and former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion. "Our only goal is to form government."