POLITICS

Tom Mulcair Shuffles Senior Staff Ahead Of Election

01/14/2015 09:27 EST | Updated 03/16/2015 05:59 EDT

Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has announced sweeping changes to his senior political staff as the party prepares for the next election.

The house-cleaning comes in the face of opinion surveys that show the NDP has failed to capitaliz‎e on the historic 2011 breakthrough that saw them lead the Official Opposition for the first time. Those same polls suggest that Justin Trudeau's Liberals have become the alternative to the governing Conservatives in the minds of most voters despite the Grits' dismal third-place finish after the last election.

Mulcair told caucus about the changes at a dinner Wednesday night.

CBC News has learned Mulcair's chief of staff, Raoul Gebert, is leaving. Multiple sources confirm he is bringing in Alain Gaul as his new right hand man. Gaul was previously the chief of staff to Mulcair when he was environment minister in Quebec City.

Gebert will continue to be an adviser for the party, primarily in Quebec.

Brad Lavigne is also returning to the fold in an advisory role as campaign adviser. Lavigne was previously Jack Layton's principal secretary and is credited with being a critical part of the NDPs 2011 breakthrough.

His return represents a significant reversal for both Lavigne and Mulcair — their relationship was strained after Layton's death and the bitter leadership contest that followed.​

Mulcair's principal secretary, Karl Bélanger, will remain in his position providing the leader with strategic advice.

The changes come as the NDP is struggling to get ahead in the polls. While Mulcair is often lauded for his performance in the House of Commons, that success in the cut-and-thrust of Parliament has failed to trigger increased support among the public.

The failure has led to some grumbling among New Democrats. That malaise was brought home with sobering reality after the defection of former caucus chair Glenn Thibeault, who recently left to run for the Ontario provincial Liberals.

Other well known NDP veterans like Libby Davies and Yvon Godin have chosen not to run in the next election.

The turmoil and stalled political success has fostered a sense of frustration within the party as it struggles to maintain party morale and unity.

Mulcair is expected to make the changes public on Friday.

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