OTTAWA — Tom Mulcair's longtime theme song "Meet Me in the Basement" by Broken Social Scene took on an ironic - and literal - significance Wednesday as the election-bruised NDP caucus gathered in the bowels of Parliament Hill.
The New Democrat leader, who has stayed out of the public eye since his party's drubbing two weeks ago, met a significantly shrunken caucus just hours after Justin Trudeau was sworn in as prime minister.
In a speech open to the media, Mulcair said the election results were not what the NDP hoped for, but vowed the party will examine what happened.
"We will be taking time in the months to come to analyze what happened," Mulcair said. "I've asked party president Rebecca Blaikie and national director Anne McGrath to start that process immediately."
Mulcair took ownership of the election result.
"I assume all of the responsibility as leader of the party," Mulcair told reporters.
The NDP leader said he now wants want a "top-level panel" to conduct the post-mortem, including outgoing MPs, current members and party elders who did not play a direct role in the campaign.
"I want an unvarnished, open, complete look at what happened and (will) report back to you and to all members of the party on that," he said.
"I'm committed to overseeing this process to find the answers and to lead our party to government in 2019."
Mulcair may be eager to stay on as leader, but his political fate depends on the results of a leadership review set for next spring in Edmonton.
The new NDP caucus has 44 members. The party held 95 seats at the dissolution of the last Parliament.
Support for the New Democrats was significantly reduced in Mulcair's home province of Quebec, where the party was only able to claim 16 seats.
In the 2011 election, the party won 59 of 75 available seats in the province.
"We lost many colleagues in Quebec," said Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice. "We have to think about how we will rebuild our movement, but we have a strong base in every region in Quebec except Outaouais."
Mulcair acknowledged Wednesday the party's showing on Oct. 19 fell far short of expectations.
"This is the second-largest caucus in our party's history,'' Mulcair said. "Let's never forget that, but I know and we all know that's not enough."
Ontario MP Charlie Angus addressed some of this disappointment before Wednesday's meeting.
"Certainly, when you go into a campaign with so much momentum and end up almost in free fall, you're certainly disappointed," Angus said. "These are things we will have to talk about as a caucus."
Veteran MP Nathan Cullen, who represents B.C.'s Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding, said he doesn't believe there's a broad answer to address challenges the party faced.
"There's certainly some things we need to learn," Cullen said. "I hope we talk about it ... but it won't happen within one 90-minute meeting. It is going to be a conversation over time."
Other returning caucus members, including Quebec's Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who was ridiculed for taking a trip to Las Vegas during the 2011 campaign, said they're grateful to be back on the Hill.
"I was tagged the Vegas girl and I was always hoping one day I would lose that sticker of Vegas," Brosseau said. "I think with this election, the fact that I won and I was able to get more votes and up my percentage, demonstrates the work I was able to accomplish with my team, the confidence I've been able to build, so I'm very happy."
Brosseau said she is looking forward to holding the Liberal government to account.
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