09/04/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 11/03/2012 05:12 EDT

NDP Caucus Meeting 2012: Party Starts Retreat In Newfoundland

Newly-elected New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair answers questions during a break in a party caucus meeting in Toronto on Sunday, March 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)
OTTAWA - New Democrats are hoping to turn the page on a tumultuous year as the party's 101 MPs gather in St. John's, Nfld., for a three day caucus retreat.

The retreat is aimed at plotting a course that will cement the NDP's claim to be the only credible alternative to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives and, ultimately, to wrest power from them in the next election.

It marks the first time in 15 months that the New Democrats have had a chance to set a long-term course, with calm deliberation and, finally, some stability.

The NDP has been lurching from crisis to crisis since the May 2011 election vaulted it into official Opposition status for the first time in its 50-year history.

It has had to overcome a number of difficulties, including the death of former leader Jack Layton and to train a raft of inexperienced MPs who never expected to be elected.

It was further sidetracked by the sometimes-bruising, seven-month leadership race that resulted in Tom Mulcair taking the party's helm.

Caucus chairman Peter Julian says the party intends to use its newfound stability to show it's the real opposition to the Harper government when Parliament resumes on Sept. 17 and, over the longer term, to show Canadians how an NDP government would do things differently.

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