OTTAWA - Peter Julian seems poised to become the third candidate to formally jump into the federal NDP leadership race.
While other potential contenders are taking their time assessing their chances, the British Columbia MP says he'll announce his intentions within the next 10 days.
Julian is already sounding like a candidate and has already racked up endorsements from four of his fellow MPs.
Isabelle Morin of Montreal and Kennedy Stewart of British Columbia emerged from a caucus meeting Wednesday to throw their support behind the fluently bilingual Julian.
They join Ontario MPs Rathika Sitsabaiesan and Brian Masse, who endorsed Julian last week.
So far, party president Brian Topp and Quebec MP Romeo Saganash are the only declared candidates.
Thomas Mulcair, the party's deputy leader, has long been considered a front-runner to succeed the late Jack Layton, who died of cancer last month.
But Mulcair has been hinting lately that he may not run, suggesting the party's membership numbers are stacked against him.
The NDP has no provincial wing or deep roots in Mulcair's home province of Quebec, which accounts for only about 1,700 of the party's roughly 90,000 card-carrying members.
Mulcair has little profile outside Quebec and there are signs his support in Quebec might not be as strong as he'd hoped. He has said he's supported by "a large majority" of the NDP's 59 Quebec MPs, but of the eight who've so far publicly indicated their leadership preferences, only half backed Mulcair.
"I don't think we need someone from Quebec to represent Quebecers," said Morin as she threw her support to Julian.
Citing Julian's western roots and the fact that he worked in Quebec for 13 years, Morin added: "If we want to keep our strength in Quebec and expand into the rest of the Canadian provinces as a formidable force, we need someone with Peter's background and strengths."
Stewart said candidates will have to "get out of the gates" within the next two weeks to have a serious shot at winning the leadership. Those who enter the race later will be "the also-rans," he predicted.
Julian said he intends to come to a decision within days.
"If you have members of Parliament coming out and saying they'd like you to run, there's no doubt that increases the pressure," he said.
However, Ottawa MP Paul Dewar said he won't be rushed into such a momentous decision, although he already has a team of organizers across the country measuring support and financial backing for a leadership bid.
Dewar noted that candidates have until Jan. 24 to formally get their names on the ballot for the Mar. 24 leadership vote.
"Time is certainly on my side and I'm going to take my time."
Halifax MP Megan Leslie ruled out Wednesday launching her own leadership bid. A number of other MPs — including Peggy Nash, Niki Ashton, Robert Chisholm, Libby Davies and Nathan Cullen — are still pondering their chances.
Although he maintains he's not yet made a final decision, Julian was already talking Wednesday about his deep roots in the party, his parliamentary experience and his varied business background as leadership assets.