NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is dismissing criticism of his leadership from Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff as simply the voice of an individual – not the 3.3 million workers his organization represents.
Instead, Mr. Mulcair says he has plenty of support from union workers across the country as he prepares for a leadership vote at his party's convention this weekend in Edmonton.
"I heard one person from the CLC," Mr. Mulcair told The Globe and Mail, referring to Mr. Yussuff.
"The members of the CLC, from what I was able to see, I've got a lot of their support."
On Monday, Mr. Yussuff told The Globe that Mr. Mulcair does not deserve another term as NDP Leader, and predicted he will win less than 60 per cent in Sunday's vote.
He said that under Mr. Mulcair's leadership, "we lost the opportunity to form government."
"Mr. Yussuff was speaking as an individual, as a member of the party. And I have the greatest respect for the members of the party heading into Edmonton," Mr. Mulcair said on Tuesday, as he sipped espresso in a tiny downtown café before speaking at a United Steelworkers conference in Montreal.
"There are a couple of people with a different view, and that's okay. That's part of the process."
Mr. Mulcair is hinting that 70 per cent may be enough for him to stay on, but is still refusing say explicitly how much support he wants from the 1,500 delegates who will vote on whether to hold a leadership race.
Outgoing party president Rebecca Blaikie has said he would need 70 per cent to stay on. While acknowledging he has heard the same "type" of number, Mr. Mulcair said he has been "very careful not to give a specific figure."
"I hear that type of number as I travel the country. There are other numbers out there, but the most important thing for me is why we continue this fight," Mr. Mulcair said.
"I'm looking for a strong endorsement in Edmonton."
But just how strong an endorsement Mr. Mulcair wants – or needs – is up in the air.
The only number spelled out in the NDP's constitution is 50 per cent plus one, and most political watchers agree that is not nearly enough. To some, even 70 per cent is a low bar, especially after the NDP fell to third place in the October federal election and lost more than half its seats.
Ken Neumann, national director of United Steelworkers, one of five union leaders who have come out in support of Mr. Mulcair, said some 300 to 400 union delegates will attend the convention.
While Mr. Neumann said he cannot guarantee it, he said he expects most of his delegates will support Mr. Mulcair.
"I'm confident that the labour movement clearly is going to be behind Tom to be the leader of this party," he said.
Denis Tanguay, a steelworker from Port Cartier, Que., is not sold on Mr. Mulcair. "I don't know if he will be the right man to continue for the NDP," he told The Globe at the Steelworkers convention.
"He looks grumpy. People are afraid of him."
Steve Weller, a local president for National Steel Car in Hamilton, says Mr. Mulcair has lots of support in that city. "He cares about the working people," he said.
Sharleen Stewart, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare, which represents 120,000 health care workers, including the largest number of homecare workers in Canada, says the feelings among her 30 to 40 delegates who will attend the convention are mixed.
"Some are supporting Thomas Mulcair, some aren't," said Ms. Stewart, who will not be at the convention.
"They'll hear what Thomas has to say and make their decision. … I've just instructed them to vote with their conscience."
Former Manitoba MP Pat Martin, who was defeated in the election, said much of the opposition to the NDP leader is coming from MPs who lost their seats in the Liberal landslide.
"Some of that venting is sour grapes from rookie MPs who lost their seats. … A lot of the most serious grousing is coming, in fact, from failed leadership candidates who never thought Tom should have won," said Mr. Martin, who predicted Mr. Mulcair will win the leadership review vote.
"Tom has been called the best opposition leader in living memory and, guess what, we are in opposition for the next four years. There is no one better in the political landscape today to do what needs to do for us in the foreseeable future," he said.
With a report from Robert Fife