POLITICS

Mulcair won't confirm NDP leadership run

09/13/2011 03:26 EDT | Updated 11/13/2011 05:12 EST

NDP MP Thomas Mulcair is stopping just short of announcing he'll run for the party's leadership, as the caucus started gathering to set strategy for the coming parliamentary session.

Mulcair, the party's deputy leader, said Tuesday he's in the process of consulting people on whether he should run. He said he wants to have his team in place before he formally announces his intention to run to replace late leader Jack Layton, who died of cancer on Aug. 22.

Despite talking openly about putting together his leadership team, Mulcair insisted "no decision has been taken."

"It's a serious decision. I take it seriously," he said.

The NDP is meeting in Quebec City for strategy and planning meetings before the return to Parliament on Sept. 19.

They'll also establish the rules for MPs and staff during the leadership race, including whether MPs in critic portfolios need to step down from those positions if they're campaigning to be the next NDP leader. That decision is ultimately up to Interim Leader Nycole Turmel.

B.C. MP Peter Julian, who is considering a leadership run, says MPs shouldn't be in critic positions if they put their names forward for party leadership. He is the NDP's critic on industry files.

Julian says it will take time for most people to make the decision to run. Party president Brian Topp, who is stepping down from the role as soon as he files his nomination papers, declared on Monday his intention to run.

"I think there's a mourning period for all of us and I think that's something that people respect to varying degrees," Julian said.

"It is going to take time for a number of folks before they choose whether or not they're going to enter the race.

"Those who doubt it's an important decision on a personal and financial level, just ask Ken Dryden how he left the last [Liberal] leadership race," he said. "He was a good candidate. He had lots to offer, but he left with an enormous debt."

The NDP has set the leadership fee at $15,000 and capped spending at $500,000.

Tory MP issues warning over memberships

The Conservatives offered a little friendly advice to the NDP Tuesday, sending MP Jacques Gourde to the New Democrats' caucus meeting in Quebec City to warn them against selling party memberships out of their constituency offices.

Gourde said the party would be sending a complaint to the House of Commons internal economy committee, but admitted he had no evidence any memberships had been sold out of NDP MP offices.

It's against the rules to use parliamentary resources, such as constituency offices, for partisan business.

In an interview Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, party treasurer Rebecca Blaikie said people could go into the party's constituency offices to sign up for memberships.

Gourde insisted he was simply offering advice about when to be partisan and when to act as an MP.

"It's a plan of prevention, to avoid it," Gourde said in French.

"It's just a friendly warning."

He refused to take questions in English or make a statement in English. He said St. Catharines, Ont., MP Rick Dykstra would hold a similar press conference in English in Ottawa.

NDP MP Alex Boulerice said he left a session on keeping partisan and parliamentary work separate to address Gourde's concerns.

"I think the Conservatives are scared of the NDP. I think they're afraid we're going to sell lots of membership cards in the days and weeks to come," he said.

Boulerice said unlike Gourde, he would have been able to understand the English-language interview.

"They are trying to embarrass us," he said.

Language politics are expected to play a role within the NDP caucus, with 59 MPs from Quebec elected in the May 2 election – 58 more than before the election.

The Conservatives lost several Quebec ridings in the same election, including a handful of high-profile cabinet ministers.

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