March 18, 2016 5:01 pm

Supporters of Tom Mulcair speak out as knives sharpen for NDP leader

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair stands and is applauded during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 17, 2016.


OTTAWA – After a week of bad press for Tom Mulcair, his supporters are starting to speak out in favour of the beleaguered NDP leader.

Two young Quebec MPs who were supported by Mulcair at the start of their political career say they will back the NDP leader in Edmonton when he faces a do-or-die moment at the party’s convention.

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And a major union – the Steelworkers -is also stepping up.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who made headlines in the 2011 election campaign over a vacation trip to Las Vegas, says few people took her seriously when she was first elected. But Mulcair believed in her.

“Tom really reached out to me after the election, along with Jack (Layton),” she said.

“Tom was really there from the beginning. He really helped me.”

Brosseau says Mulcair helped her get through the first few weeks, months and years of being a rookie MP.

“He was a really important figure helping me … he trusted me,” she said. “He put his confidence in me. He really encouraged me to get over this hump and just work hard.”

She says members of her riding association will also be voting in favour of Mulcair next month during his leadership review.

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Party president Rebecca Blaikie says Mulcair will need about 70 per cent support from rank-and-file delegates to keep his job.

Matthew Dube, a former McGill student also elected to the Commons in the NDP’s 2011 orange wave, says he, too, supports Mulcair.

“I think it is unfortunate to think of getting rid of such an experienced leader when over the three years he’s been leader,” Dube said.

“He did really do such a great job in Parliament and still does right now …. despite everything else that is going on.”

The NDP leader is facing increased pressure from rank-and-file members to show why he deserves to stay on as leader following a disastrous campaign which punted the party back to third party status.

This week, critics such as Sid Ryan, a former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, called for Mulcair to be replaced. A group of 37 New Democrat activists from Quebec, including three defeated MPs, is also calling for new direction.

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Ken Neumann, the national director of the United Steelworkers union, released a direct response to that criticism and in support of Mulcair.

“Many of us share the belief that there are things that could have been done better during the last campaign, but public attacks … are not how we build a strong social democratic movement.,” he said.

“To see movement on these important issues, we need a tough, articulate and experienced question period fighter like Tom Mulcair to lead our movement and hold Justin Trudeau to account.”

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