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Politics Wounded NDP exploring ways to raise cash, win back progressive voters

New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, January 18, 2016.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

The federal NDP will turn to its network of social activists to woo progressives back to the party fold this fall, according to the party's new national director.

Nearly a year after the last election, New Democrats are trying to stop the bleed of support to Justin Trudeau's Liberals.

Robert Fox, a former Oxfam executive who was recently named NDP national director, said there are many activists who are not connected to the party and could be.

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"We need to reach out and ensure that all the sorts of people who are working on the issues that we are working on, that they feel we are open to them and we are looking for their participation, we are looking for their ideas we are looking for their energy, we are looking for their passion," Fox said.

A direct appeal to the left was on the tip of Tom Mulcair's tongue at the party's caucus meeting in Montreal last week, where he defined the party's core values as "environmentalism, pacifism, feminism and socialism."

For his part, Fox is trying to use his own experience to address internal party challenges, such as slumping fundraising figures.

Elections Canada figures from the second quarter of 2016 paint a bleak financial picture for the New Democrats who collected $1.08 million from 15,906 donors.

The figures are a far cry from the Conservatives, who brought in $5.07 million from 37,223 donors, and the Liberals who received $4.9 million from 36,080 contributors.

The first thing New Democrats need to do is tap the strength of the 44-member team itself, Fox noted.

Veteran caucus member Nathan Cullen said he is confident that the NDP can stay connected to progressives who will consider his party again in three years.

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He believes many voters are giving the Liberals the benefit of the doubt for now, but said Trudeau's actions on issues including electoral reform and climate change will be the real test.

"If he disappoints, folks are just dating," Cullen said in an interview.

"We've never had a celebrity prime minister before ... the world of celebrity is a very different place. It gets built quickly and it gets torn down quickly."

Cullen — a 2012 NDP leadership candidate who opted to stay out of this race — also believes the leadership race will help to generate enthusiasm and money once the race isn't so far away.

So far, there are no candidates vying to replace Tom Mulcair. A successor will be named next fall.

"Whenever a leadership contest happens, you see a rush of new members as all of the candidates try to sign up people," said Queen's University labour and history professor Christo Aivali.

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"While that happens, there's usually associated donations. That will help. I think a new leader will create a ... person behind which the party can work forward towards. That will help bring in new money."

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