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Politics Mulcair takes blame for campaign in letter to NDP supporters

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair delivers a speech in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 8.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Thomas Mulcair says the collapse of the New Democrats during the fall election is a weight he personally shoulders, but he is determined to turn around the fortunes of his party after it was bumped from the offices of the Official Opposition.

An interim report from a post-election analysis conducted by NDP officials that was released on Sunday blames lapses in campaign preparation and execution and the decision to promise a balanced budget for the party's third-place finish in the Oct. 19 vote.

"As Leader, I take full responsibility for these shortcomings," Mr. Mulcair says in a letter that was posted on the NDP website on Wednesday. "I could have done a better job. It is my duty to the party and to you, our members, to learn from and to apply the lessons of the review."

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Mr. Mulcair faces a test of his leadership at the party's convention in Edmonton in the first week of April and has said he will work "tirelessly" to shore up the support of members before that vote.

"If members grant me the honour of continuing to serve them," he says in his letter, "I am determined to make the necessary changes so that the mistakes of the campaign will never be repeated."

The New Democrats entered the 11-week election campaign in August as front-runners in a tight race, with most polls giving them a slim lead over the Liberals and the Conservatives. In mid-September, the parties were in a three-way tie. But, starting on about Oct. 20, the NDP began to fall behind. And when the votes were counted on election day, the party had dropped from 103 seats in the House of Commons to 44.

Among the casualties were some of the the most prominent New Democrat MPs, including Peter Stoffer, Megan Leslie, Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash.

The post-election analysis, which was performed by a working group led by party president Rebecca Blaikie, found the NDP faltered in communication and organization. Supporters complained there was no clear message and not enough outreach to party members and the broader Canadian audience, she wrote in the interim report.

Ms. Blaikie wrote that a pledge to balance the budget made the NDP seem "cautious" at a time when the Liberals and their leader, Justin Trudeau, were offering real change. "It allowed the Liberals to contrast themselves from the Conservatives more clearly and overshadowed our strongly progressive platform. …"

The report also blames "external factors," including strategic voting, media coverage and the length of the campaign, for the NDP's poor result. Some decisions about interactions with media and in which debates to participate "distracted our campaign and disappointed our supporters," Ms. Blaikie wrote.

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The full report will be released before the Edmonton convention.

Mr. Mulcair said in his letter that change is already happening within the party, with new appointments to top jobs and an overhaul of the way the caucus functions. And it is his hope, he said, that the members attending the convention will elect a president and an executive council that will "breathe new energy into the structures of the party."

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