Mulcair falters, Topp and Cullen impress at NDP leadership convention

Thomas Mulcair speaks to delegates during the NDP Leadership Convention in Toronto.NDP leadership hopeful Thomas Mulcair could have solidified his frontrunner status with a strong performance at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Friday.

But Mulcair missed the mark.

Each candidate had 20 minutes to make their final pitch to the more than 4,600 party members attending the largest leadership convention in NDP history.

Mulcair made an impressive entrance with a marching band, but had to speed through his speech due to the strict timeline carved out by the party.

His messaging was weakened even further as he read from a script instead of speaking from memory.

John Ivision of the National Post tweeted: "Mulcair reading his speech as if he and it are complete strangers. Isn't he meant to be the Great Communicator?"

Toronto MP Peggy Nash's showcase was also rushed as the music began to play, forcing the MP off the stage. When she failed to stop talking, Nash's microphone was cutoff.

Nathan Cullen and Brian Topp, the two other frontrunners, had more polished presentations.

Cullen had a no-frills showcase, without a video or a guest introduction.

Instead, the MP from B.C. went with a personal touch, walking around with microphone in hand and speaking from memory about his family and his opposition to the northern gateway pipeline.

Brian Topp, whose stature in the contest had diminished since the race began, finished strong with a solid presentation, which had a lot of substance but little sizzle.

His speech pandered to the left wing of the party — at one point he stated he was a "proud New Democrat and an unapologetic social democrat."

In an interview with Yahoo! Canada News, Topp said the showcase was an important part of the campaign.

"I think [my speech] went well. It's up to the members to decide the quality of my performance compared to my colleagues," he said, adding that it's very hard to say how many undecided voters watched the leadership showcases.

"There was a fair bit of voting before we started the convention but I think there are some members [at the convention] and who were watching on TV who were still considering who to vote for. In that sense the showcase was important."