The New Democratic Party's executive and caucus set the rules for the campaign at a series of meetings in September 2011. The election took place in Toronto and on the Internet. At the Leadership Convention, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Thomas Mulcair was declared to be the new leader of the party. The convention was to be held at Exhibition Place's Allstream Centre, but it was moved to the larger venue due to a greater than expected number of delegates registering for the event.
In a letter written days before his death, Layton recommended that a leadership election be held as early as possible in 2012 on approximately the same time lines as in 2003, and that Nycole Turmel, who had been appointed interim leader because of his illness, continue in that role until the election of a permanent leader. Turmel initially said that the party intended to hold the leadership election in January 2012. Others, including party president Brian Topp and Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair—both prospective candidates—called for a longer race. Topp agreed with calls for a vote later in the year, such as February or March. Mulcair said he would not run if the convention is held too early. Like Topp, he suggests a convention in "late winter or early spring". He also pointed out that such a time frame would be consistent with the last leadership election, which took 7.5 months (June 6, 2002 – January 23, 2003). On September 9, the NDP federal council set the election for March 24, 2012, in Toronto.
The longer timeline was to allow more members to be recruited in Quebec, which had low numbers of NDP members but, following the "Orange Crush" in the recent election, the bulk of the party's MPs.
The leadership election was open to all members during a convention in a combination of exhaustive ballot and instant-runoff voting. Votes mailed in advance were cast by instant-runoff voting, but votes on the day, either at the convention or online, were for one round only. Candidates could withdraw before being formally eliminated and release preferences to lower down candidates who stay in. In the 2003 leadership election, members were able to vote in person at the convention, by mail, or online. Also in that election, affiliated organizations (such as trade unions) were allotted a minimum of 25 percent of the vote, with the remainder held by individual party members. The party's federal executive ruled in September 2011 that a 2006 change to the party constitution mandating one member, one vote precluded a carve out for affiliated groups.
Party president and leadership candidate Brian Topp supported retaining the carve-out as did former MP Dawn Black, while MPs Thomas Mulcair, Peter Stoffer, and Pat Martin opposed it. In previous leadership elections, a union's delegates would normally vote as a block making union endorsements an important factor in the outcome.
Candidates in the campaign had a $500,000 spending limit.
On September 14, 2011, interim party leader Nycole Turmel announced rules for candidates from the federal caucus that would have members of the caucus executive, e.g., deputy leaders, to stay in their posts, but would require critics and committee chairs and vice chairs to step down if they chose to join the race.
All those who were party members by February 18, 2012, were eligible to vote and could do so in one of three ways:
mail-in preferential ballot;
by internet either by casting a preferential ballot prior to March 24, 2012, or by voting ballot-by-ballot in real time on March 24; or
in person as a delegate at the convention.
The candidates participated in six debates, in Ottawa, Halifax, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Montreal and Vancouver. The first debate was held in Ottawa on December 4, 2011, and focused on the economy. The Halifax debate on January 29, 2012, focused on families, while the February debate in Quebec City were about "Canada on the world stage", and the February debate in Winnipeg was about "Connecting people and regions".
Leadership candidates debate on March 4, 2012 in Montreal.
Nathan Cullen is MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, first elected in 2004. Cullen is the most experienced and long-standing Parliamentarian in the leadership race and is the only MP to have defeated an incumbent Conservative to claim his seat. Before becoming involved in politics, Cullen worked in community and economic development throughout Latin America, North America and Africa and also started his own business, Maravilla Consultants, providing strategic planning and conflict resolution services to business, government, and non-profit agencies throughout B.C. Cullen has served as a critic in the NDP shadow cabinet, first for environment, national parks and youth, then natural resources and energy. In the current Parliament, Cullen serves as Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Privacy, Access to Information and Ethics. He is also the Associate Critic for Natural Resources, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Environment and Sustainable Development. In the 2011 federal election, Cullen received over 55% of the popular vote in his constituency, the highest plurality in the region since 1962. He is functionally trilingual (English, French and Spanish).
Other prominent figures:Geoff Berner, singer-songwriter; Guy Dauncey, BC environmentalist Ron Stipp, Jack Layton's campaign manager in Toronto-Danforth; Wade Davis author, National Geographic explorer-in-residence/ethnobotanist; Shane Koyczan, slam poet
Nathan Cullen proposes a "Joint Nomination" process for Conservative held ridings, in which the Liberals, Greens and NDP will come together and chose one candidate among themselves to run against Conservatives, in that riding, to avoid splitting the vote.
Thomas "Tom" Mulcair has been the NDP MP for Outremont and one of two deputy leaders of the party since 2007, and has served as house leader and finance critic. Prior to holding elective office he was a lawyer and public official. As a member of the Quebec Liberal Party, he represented the Laval riding of Chomedey in the National Assembly of Quebec from 1994 to 2007, and was Quebec's Minister of the Environment from 2003 to 2006. The Quebec Liberals were not officially affiliated with any federal party, and the federal NDP were not officially affiliated with any provincial party in Quebec, at the time and since. His mother is French Canadian; he was raised and educated and built his career in Quebec and is fluently bilingual.
Peggy Nash is the current MP for Parkdale—High Park, in Toronto, Ontario. She also represented the electoral district from 2006 to 2008. Until she announced her candidacy, she was the Official Opposition critic for finance, and in her previous term in Parliament was party critic for industry. She served as the President of the NDP from 2009 until 2011. Prior to being elected an MP, she was a Canadian Auto Workers negotiator, and became the first woman in North America to negotiate a major contract with one of the "Big Three" Detroit automakers, when she negotiated a contract with Ford in 2005. She holds an honours degree in French language and literature from the University of Toronto, and is fluent in English, French and Spanish.
Past provincial legislators: (7) Colin Gabelman former BC MLA and cabinet minister, Evelyn Gillespie former BC MLA and cabinet monister, Elizabeth Cull, BC MLA and finance minister, Darlene Marzari former BC MLA and cabinet minister, Jenn MacGinn former BC MLAPeter Kormos, former Ontario MPP for Welland and former provincial cabinet minister;David Schreck former BC MLA
Municipal councillors: (13) Marianne Alto Victoria City Councillor; Maria Augimeri, Toronto city council; Constance Barnes, Vancouver Park Board; Janet Davis, Toronto Council; Heather Deal, Vancouver council; Sarah Doucette, Toronto City Councillor;Ben Isitt, Victoria City Councillor; Ron Jones, Windsor council; Michelle Kirby, Oak Bay BC councillor; Trevro Loke, Vancouver Park Board; Diane McNally, Greater Victoria School Board; Gord Perks, Toronto City Councillor; Adam Vaughn, Toronto council
Martin Singh is a pharmacist from Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia, president of the NDP's Faith and Social Justice Commission and president of the Sackville—Eastern Shore NDP riding association. He intends to build his campaign on four issues: entrepreneurship and engaging the business community, health care and the promotion of a national pharmacare plan, the environment and the issue of leadership. He is reportedly bilingual.
A former Liberal, Singh has been active with the NDP since the mid-1990s and is president of the party's faith and social justice commission. On December 11, 2005, he was elected president of the Maritime Sikh Society, and is the first person of non-Indian ethnicity to become head of a gurdwara in Canada.
On March 14, 2012, he announced that he planned to vote for Thomas Mulcair as his second choice, and urged his supporters to do the same.
Brian Topp was President of the NDP from its 2011 convention; he did not participate in establishing the rules of the campaign and resigned to enter the leadership race. He is executive director and CEO of the ACTRA Toronto union local. He was previously deputy chief of staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow (1993–2000) and senior adviser to Jack Layton during the 2011 election campaign. In the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, he served as NDP federal election campaign director. Raised in Quebec, Topp is fluently bilingual.
Robert Chisholm is the current MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was first elected federally during the 2011 election, and until he announced his candidacy, was the Official Opposition's Critic for International Trade, ACOA and the Atlantic Gateway. Prior to federal politics, he was the Leader of the Nova Scotia NDP from 1996 to 2000. In 1998, he led the NDP to official opposition, the first time since the party's predecessor Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) accomplished that feat in the 1940s under Donald MacDonald. Chisholm was a former Atlantic Regional Director for Canadian Union of Public Employees. He does not speak fluent French, and is currently in a French immersion course. He announced his candidacy at a press conference in Halifax, on October 30.
Chisholm withdrew his candidacy on December 21, 2011, citing his lack of fluency in French, and on February 29, 2012, endorsed Thomas Mulcair for leadership.
Romeo Saganash is the MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, Quebec, first elected in May 2011, and was critic for natural resources. Saganash is also former Deputy Grand Chief and director of governmental relations and international affairs for the Grand Council of the Crees and former vice-chairman of the Cree Regional Authority. He helped to negotiate the Paix des Braves agreement between the Cree Nation and the Government of Quebec. He is fluently trilingual having been raised speaking Cree, English, and French.
Saganash announced on February 9, 2012 that he was withdrawing from the race, citing illness in his family and a lack of confidence in his campaign. On March 7, 2012, he endorsed Thomas Mulcair for leadership.
Other prominent individuals: Marc Laferriere, former federal NDP candidate for Brant, Grant Robertson, former federal and provincial NDP Candidate for Huron-Bruce who was also the Ontario Coordinator of the National Farmers Union and Cameron Dearlove, former provincial NDP candidate for Kitchener Centre.
A survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion on September 20 and 21, 2011, found that 28% of Canadian voters would vote for the NDP if it was headed by Mulcair and 25% of Canadians would support the NDP under Topp.
A survey conducted by Leger Marketing between September 12 and 15, 2011, found that 17% of NDP supporters favoured Mulcair as leader. Topp received support from 10% of the same group. Saganash received support from 1% of Quebec NDP voters, but no support outside the province. Paul Dewar received support from 3% of NDP voters in Canada, Peggy Nash and Nathan Cullen each received 2% support and Peter Julian received 1% of the support.
A Harris-Decima poll conducted between September 1 and 4, 2011, showed support for Chow at 19%, Mulcair at 14%, Gary Doer at 6%, Paul Dewar at 3%, and Libby Davies, Topp, Peter Julian and Robert Chisholm all at 2%. Among NDP supporters, 22% would support Chow, 21% Mulcair, 7% for Doer, 4% for Dewar and Davies each, 3% for Julian and just 2% for Topp and Chisholm each.
A survey conducted by Forum Research for the National Post on December 13, 2011, surveyed 300 NDP supporters on their opinions for NDP leader. Of those surveyed, 47% were undecided. The remaining 53% of supporters were split between Thomas Mulcair (45%), Peggy Nash (16%) with Paul Dewar and Brian Topp at 8%.
A survey conducted by Abacus Data asked respondents whether they were aware of the candidates running for the leadership of the NDP. Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp were the most likely to be known by respondents. 36% of respondents were aware of Thomas Mulcair while 31% were aware of Brian Topp. Paul Dewar (27% aware) and Peggy Nash (23%) rounded out the top four. Among NDP supporters (those who said they would vote NDP if an election were held the time of the poll), the order was the same with Mulcair (38%), Topp (32%), Dewar (27%), and Nash (21%) in the top four. Over three in ten NDP supporters had not heard of any of the candidates prior to our poll. Regionally, Mulcair's name recognition in Quebec exceeded all other competitors in all other regions of the country and his national lead in name recognition was almost entirely due to Quebecers' awareness of him. 64%of Quebec respondents were aware of Thomas Mulcair. Outside of Quebec, Mulcair's name recognition never exceeded 25%.
A Forum Research poll for the National Post on January 18, 2012, surveyed 1,200 Canadians on their opinions for NDP leader. Of those surveyed, 14% supported Thomas Mulcair, followed by 6% for Peggy Nash, 5% each for Brian Topp and Paul Dewar, 3% for Romeo Saganash, and 2% each for Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen, and Martin Singh. Of the 300 self-declared NDP supporters, Mulcair won 19% support, again followed by Nash (10%), Topp (6%), Dewar (6%), Saganash (4%), Cullen (4%), Singh (2%), and Ashton (1%), while 48% of NDP supporters were undecided. Among decided NDP supporters, Mulcair was supported by 36%, followed by Nash (20%), Topp (11%), Dewar (11%), Saganash (8%), Cullen (7%), Singh (4%) and Ashton (3%)
On February 13, Paul Dewar's campaign partially released the results of an IVR poll commissioned by them and held on February 8 & 9. With responses from 6,373 households in "every region of Canada", the first choice responses weighted by NDP membership per province for decided voters were: Thomas Mulcair 25.5%, Peggy Nash 16.8%, Paul Dewar 15.1%, Nathan Cullen 12.8%, Brian Topp 12.7%, Niki Ashton 9.5%, Martin Singh 4.1%, Romeo Saganash 3.6%. 31.0% of respondents were undecided. In response, the Topp campaign responded saying their own surveys place him at 28%.
This section requires expansion. (March 2012)
In the run-up to the convention, Thomas Mulcair was predicted as leading the pack.
Thomas Mulcair gives his acceptance speech on March 24, 2012
Just prior to the convention opening, Brian Topp and Ed Broadbent, both defined the race as staying true to the NDP cause, by going with Topp, or moving to the centre and away from its current principles by going with Thomas Mulcair. Pundits had comparisons with New Labour in Britain under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, with Mulcair's stance on the party.
The first day, March 23, was devoted to candidate speeches and a tribute to Jack Layton. Peggy Nash was seen by many to have bad time management skills, having run out of time, and being ushered out by music to indicate end of time. That was due to overly long introductory portion of her 20 minute allotment. Thomas Mulcair also disappointed by having to speed through his speech after a similar overly long introduction by supporters, instead of having a great speech as anticipated, to end in a timely manner and not be ushered out for being over time. Brian Topp was considered to have one of the most polished presentations, while Nathan Cullen distinguished himself by speaking without notes or a teleprompter.
Entering balloting day, pundits predicted the perceived front runner, Thomas Mulcair, would receive support in the first round between 30 and 35 percent, though some people in the Mulcair camp predicted 40 percent. Pundits expected a clear multi-ballot win if Mulcair received 35 percent or more, and a multi-ballot slugout if his share was nearer 30 percent, which would allow other challengers to catch up and beat him.
Voting for the first round ended up at roughly half the 128,351 eligible voters, lower than expected but still much higher than the usual participation rates at conventions. This was likely due to the fact that all eligible NDP members could vote, and not just convention delegates. Participation was still lower that the roughly 60% of the general electorate who voted in the last national general election however.
Most of Martin Singh's supporters, according to pundits, migrated to Thomas Mulcair, accounting for most of Mulcair's rise on the second ballot.
After Peggy Nash was eliminated in the second ballot, her supporters split fairly evenly between the three remaining candidates, for the third ballot, surprising many pundits. During the voting for the third ballot, the NDP polling site was the target of a denial-of-service attack, forcing a prolongation of the voting period, and separating voting from those at the convention and those at home.
Brain Topp ultimately finished second on the fourth and final ballot with 42.8% of the vote to Mulcair's 57.2%, allowing Thomas Mulcair to win the leadership.
^Bergman, Brian (April 6, 1998). "Canada: FIT TO BE TIED: The Nova Scotia election ends in a dead heat". Maclean's Magazine (eLibrary|format= requires |url= (help)) (Rogers Communications). p. 36.|accessdate= requires |url= (help)