Thomas Mulcair says he is not simply being coy by failing to announce that he is joining the race to replace Jack Layton as leader of the federal New Democrats – he simply doesn't know if he could win.
Mr. Mulcair, the deputy leader of the party whose riding is in Montreal, has expressed his interest in running. But he has yet to join the two declared candidates – former party president Brian Topp and Quebec MP Romeo Saganash.
He told reporters on Monday that he has truly not decided if he will throw his hat into the ring because the numbers for a Quebec candidate do not add up well.
Although the majority of New Democrat MPs are from Quebec, "Quebec is the only province that does not have a provincial wing of the NDP," said Mr. Mulcair.
The "simple mathematical result" is that, in a province like British Columbia where tens of thousands of memberships were sold last year during a provincial leadership race, there are far more people who are eligible to vote for the federal leadership. A provincial NDP membership automatically includes a membership in the federal party.
"In the province of Ontario and Manitoba and many other provinces and territories where we are having general elections this fall, again, thousands and thousands of (membership) cards were sold in riding races to determine who would be the candidate," he said. "Every one of those provincial cards also works federally."
The province of Quebec, on the other hand, has no provincial wing. That means that, of the 85,000 to 95,000 current members of the NDP, fewer than 2,000 are from Quebec.
While Mr. Topp, a long-time New Democrat who hails from Montreal, has developed support in many areas of the country, Mr. Mulcair would likely have to rely heavily on Quebec where he was once a Liberal provincial cabinet minister.
Mr. Mulcair said he is working as hard as he can to boost the number of New Democrats in Quebec and he is getting much support and encouragement from across Canada.
But "when I say that I haven't reached any decision yet," said Mr. Mulcair, "I am not playing coy, it's a simple statement of fact."
Other New Democrats who are still considering their options include Paul Dewar, Peter Julian, Nathan Cullen, Libby Davies and Robert Chisholm.