Tough times ahead for Thomas Mulcair and the NDP

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair (CP file photo)This past summer was supposed to be the 'summer of Tom.'

NDP strategists had it all planned out: party leader Thomas Mulcair was going to criss-cross the country with his wife; he was going to show a kinder, gentler side; he was going to capitalize on the Senate expense scandal and take advantage of the fact that the Justin Trudeau honeymoon was coming to an end.

It was supposed to buoy them in the opinion polls.

Unfortunately — for them — it didn't work.

In fact, a new Ipsos Reid/CTV News opinion poll released Friday suggests that the federal New Democrats are actually slipping.

If an election were held tomorrow, the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper would receive 32% of the vote among decided voters, up 2 points since the end of June. In a statistical tie, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau would receive 31% of the decided vote, down 2 points since June. Thomas Mulcair’s NDP would receive 26% of the vote, down 2 points.

The most shocking part of the survey was that 41 per cent of decided or leaning NDP voters feel that Justin Trudeau "has the best chance of defeating the Harper Conservatives in the next election."

In other words, a large number of NDP supporters don't even think Mulcair can beat Harper.

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And things are about to get worse.

In the coming months, the party will likely lose at least one of their high profile MPs from British Columbia. Nathan Cullen, Jinny Sims, Fin Donnelly and Peter Julian are all considering a run for the leadership of the B.C. NDP.

There's also a good chance that the party will lose MP Olivia Chow who is rumoured to be planning her campaign for the Toronto mayoralty.

The perception of popular MPs jumping ship — so to speak — is not what the party needs right now.

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Certainly the next election is still a long way off and the New Democrats are doing their best to belittle the opinion polls.

But if you believe the polls, one of two things is becoming abundantly clear: either Thomas Mulcair isn't resonating with voters the way the party would have hoped or the NDP is just retreating back to its traditional third-party status.

Either scenario is bad news for the New Democrats.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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