Welcome back to rabble.ca‘s weekly roundup of the NDP leadership race! As always, brought to you by babble, rabble.ca‘s online discussion forum.

The big news of the week, if you haven’t already heard, has been the surprise withdrawal of Romeo Saganash from the race. babblers, across the board, were devastated. Saganash campaign worker, editor emirita of rabble.ca and known on babble as “writer,” Jude MacDonald muses about the lack of funds which most likely crippled the campaign of the first Aboriginal person to run for leadership of a federal party and the consonant economical inequality which plagues First Nations communities across Canada: “As in the country, so in the #NDPldr race. Brutal.” Romeo’s platform, it can be said, is like no leader’s platform Canada has seen before. The race is worse for his absence.

For the rest of the candidates, MP endorsements continue to fly, with Denis Blanchette and former Saganash supporter Pierre Dionne Labelle bumping Mulcair’s caucus support to 41 — more than the entire Liberal Party caucus and far and away the highest of all candidates. Brian Topp is second with 12 endorsements and only 24 MPs yet undeclared. You can thank babbler Lou Arab for his up-to-date list.

Mulcair’s popularity amongst MPs was hardly harmed by his performance in today’s French-language debate in Québec City, which, at least in terms of language skills (especially with Saganash out of the race), he was deemed to have come off looking the most electable. However, some babblers are starting to question his reliance on cap-and-trade as a federal income generator without a complimentary progressive tax policy and his committment to the working-class roots of Canada’s progressive party.

Mulcair’s fiercest competition in the French debate, at least according to babblers, seemed to come from Niki Ashton and her “new politics.” She took Mulcair on over free trade and displayed a good understanding of why Quebec overwhelmingly voted NDP in the last election. However, rabble.ca board member Duncan Cameron, among others, decried the lack of significant attention to pressing foreign policy questions:

“No questions about China, or Syria, emminent invasion of Iran, the role of the Euro, financial crisis of European banking, or even Canada-U.S. relations, let alone how to move towards justice for Palestine.

The ongoing civil war in Libya could have been raised, and would have embarassed the party. So what? The overall lack of substantial discussion hurts the NDP more than exposing its policy weaknesses to public discussion.”

With the next debate not coming for two whole weeks from now in Winnipeg, stay tuned to babble where Nathan Cullen — who finds his star rising quickly in the leadership stakes — will answer your questions about his candidacy for Stornoway, live, on babble, February 16. Submit your questions for Nathan here. Not to be outdone, top contender Peggy Nash will respond to babblers’ questions on March 2. Be sure to join us for this unique and exciting interactive opportunity — more candidate interviews will be announced soon, so continue to check this space!

See you next week for the next NDP leadership race roundup!