Brian Topp unveiled two new caucus supporters in his NDP leadership bid, but the MPs failed to follow his edict to avoid criticizing potential rivals such as Thomas Mulcair.
Mr. Topp emerged from a green bus on Parliament Hill on Friday with MPs Yvon Godin from New Brunswick and Quebec's Alain Giguère, adding to endorsements from former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent, ex-Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow and Quebec MP Françoise Boivin, among others.
The talk quickly turned to Mr. Mulcair, the well-known House Leader from Quebec who is mulling his own entry into the race and who has called for the party to make a special effort to sell memberships in Quebec.
Mr. Giguère said he is does not believe that Mr. Mulcair has the team and the profile to boost the NDP's presence outside Quebec, which is essential to eventually forming the next government.
"We must win 100 ridings in the next election, these 100 ridings will not come from Quebec," Mr. Giguère said, saying he is not aware of Mr. Mulcair's organization outside his home province.
Asked whether Mr. Mulcair is up to the job, Mr. Giguère said: "Not in English Canada. Brian is much better positioned to do this."
In addition, Mr. Godin was outraged by the call for a special effort to sell cards in Quebec, saying that it will be up to each leadership candidate to attract members in the province. The province provides 59 of the NDP's 102 seats in Parliament, but it only has about three per cent of the party's membership.
In a one-member, one-vote leadership selection process, the province stands to have little say, but Mr. Godin said that all provinces must be treated equally by the party.
"Those who want to run have seven months to do the job," Mr. Godin said. "For the party to favour one province? That's not how it works."
Near the end of the news conference, Mr. Topp stepped in front of his new supporters in a bid to bring back his campaign onto policy issues instead of personalities.
"Thomas Mulcair is a senior member of our team," Mr. Topp said. "He is well known across Canada and he will be a very good candidate across Canada. Thomas is only one example of the strength of [former leader]Jack Layton's team."
In a recent radio interview, Mr. Mulcair highlighted his long experience in elected politics, both at the provincial and federal levels, which he contrasted to Mr. Topp who "has never been elected to anything in his life."