5:00 p.m. EST -- Martin Singh finished off the day's speeches, telling delegates about both his past and his hopes for the future.
Throughout the campaign, many dismissed Singh as an inexperienced candidate with no chance of winning. But during his speech his core group of supporters, including his wife and three children, stood near the stage, chanting his name with the same ferocity other candidates got.
Martin Singh called for a nation-wide pharmacare plan
The Nova Scotia businessman began his 20-minute time slot with a cartoon video explaining why he, a white Nova Scotian with Anglo-Saxon roots, was a Sikh.
He said he had found the religion in high school, married an Indian woman and was now an active member of the Sikh community.
Calling himself the "pro-business candidate," Martin said entrepreneurship is a core part of his vision for Canada. He said he also plans to fight for a Canada-wide pharmacare plan if elected.
4:30 p.m. EST -- Peggy Nash took to the stage with dozens of her purple-clad supporters chanting her name.
She spoke about her ability to push through adversity and get things done.
"There are those who say, the cynics who say, that we can't do this, that our time hasn't come," said Nash.
That attitude hasn't stopped her before, she said. She referenced her work as a union leader and her fight for LGBT same-sex benefits.
"Never, ever underestimate the tenacity and determination of a woman leader," she said as her speech ended.
4:00 p.m. EST -- Thomas Mulcair's 20 minutes started with a bang. A marching band of drummers led the Montreal MP into the convention centre.
But the show got bogged down by the pressing crowd of journalists and supporters and it took several long minutes for Mulcair to get on stage and start his speech.
Thomas Mulcair leaves the stage after his speech
Losing those precious minutes forced him to fly through the end of his speech.
Mulcair said his experience in Quebec provincial politics prepared him well to deal with "a very tough, ideologically-driven majority government."
Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent criticized Mulcair last week saying he would move the party from its traditional social democratic core.
Mulcair did call for the need to go past the NDP's "traditional base and rally progressives of all stripes." But steered clear from mentioning co-operation with other parties as something he would explore if elected.
3:30 p.m. EST -- Niki Ashton did not try to hide the fact that she is the youngest of the seven candidates.
The 33-year-old MP for the Churchill riding in Manitoba said she has just the experience needed to be the NDP's leader.
The daughter of Greek immigrants, Ashton speaks four langauges. She highlighted the need to reach out to the whole spectrum of Canada's population and lashed out at previous governments, both Liberal and Conservative, for not doing enough to end poverty.
"On issues of economic justice and economic fairness, the old saying applies: Liberal, Tory, same old story," said Ashton. "We can do better."
A supporter of Niki Ashton looks on as the Manitoba MP speaks
She outlined just how she thinks the NDP can do better. She spoke of reaching out to the West and ending the Conservatives' reign there.
"Stephen Harper, this is my message to you: enjoy being prime minister while it lasts," she said.
3:00 p.m. EST -- If NDP members elect Brian Topp to be their new leader, he will hold the party firm to its social democratic traditions, said the veteran NDP strategist and designated frontrunner.
Topp hammered home his position on what is perhaps the defining issue of this leadership race: should the NDP stick with its left-of-centre roots and hope Canadians rally around them, or move closer to the political centre in the hopes of appealing to the hordes of disaffected Liberal supporters.
Former party leader Ed Broadbent accused Thomas Mulcair, Topp's main rival for the leadership, of wanting to take the party too far to the centre.
Why change the party when it is at the most successful it has ever been? said Topp.
More to come as Niki Ashton and Mulcair add their voice to the convention.
2:30 p.m. EST -- Ottawa MP Paul Dewar focused his speech on what he said is his ability to win the next federal election and put the NDP in government for the first time.
"The next 70 seats will be the hardest to win but we can win them. We must win them," said Dewar. "Who has the energy, the experience? Who has the passion, the plan?"
A supporter of Paul Dewar looks on while he speaks to NDP members
Before hitting the stage Dewar was endorsed by several people ranging from youth representatives to first nations leaders.
He spoke of reaching outside of the party's traditional base.
"We need to set an extra place at our table. For Canadians who didn't vote for us and for Canadians who didn't vote at all," said Dewar.
2:00 p.m. EST -- Leadership candidate Nathan Cullen started off the speeches talking about his home.
The MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley in northern B.C. said he would continue the fight against the Northern Gateway pipeline to bring oil from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean.
"We've been bullied, we've been harassed and we've been called bad names but here's the truth: to stand up for home, to stand up for country doesn't make us any of those things, it makes us Canadian and that's what we are," said Cullen.
He continued the theme of standing together in unity for the rest of his speech. The NDP needs to focus on fighting the Conservative government, he said.
Cullen spoke about how first nations groups and environmentalists worked together to stop an oil company from extracting natural gas and coal in Northern B.C.
"We as New Democrats will come together, we will unite together and we will bring to this country something it has so longed for but never had: a progressive government that reflects our progressive values," said Cullen.
Next up is Paul Dewar and then Brian Topp.
1:15 p.m. EST -- NDP President Rebecca Blaikie welcomed delegates to the convention in both English and French. She called NDP members to unite against Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
Soon after, Ontario provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath took the stage. "I am excited to be in a room full of people that believe that they can change things for the better," said Horwath.
She spoke about the last leadership convention, 10 years ago, when NDP members chose Jack Layton to be their leader.
"I'm not sure any of us could have imagined just how far his leadership would take us," said Horwath. "Or just how much we would miss him when he's gone."
The candidates are about to begin their speeches. Each candidate will have 20 minutes to make their case.
Ontario provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath welcomed delegates to Toronto
12:45 p.m. EST -- And we're off! The delegates and candidates joined in singing O Canada and stood for an aboriginal welcome. The atmosphere is charged. The lights are bright and the colour orange is everywhere. The crowd applauses several times every few minutes.
Brian Topp and Ed Broadbent sit in the front row, talking as photographers furiously snap pictures of the pair.
Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent (left) and leadership candidate Brian Topp (right)
12:10 p.m. EST -- Supporters of Peggy Nash welcomed her to the convention floor with a co-ordinated dance and cheers of "Who's our leader? Peggy Nash!"
The Toronto MP and former union leader hopes to challenge frontrunners Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp for the leadership position.
Romeo Saganash, the Quebec MP who dropped out of the leadership race in February has also arrived at the convention.
Organizers are now asking delegates to take their seats. Soon, the convention will officially open with a speech from NDP President Rebecca Blaikie.
9:30 a.m. EST -- After six debates, thousands of dollars raised and dozens of frantic French lessons, the NDP leadership race culminates in Toronto this weekend. The seven remaining candidates will battle it out over the next two days of speeches and votes.
The convention opens Friday at 12:30 p.m. At 1:30 p.m. the candidates will begin speaking to the expected crowd of 3,500, trying to convince them, and the thousands more watching online, who will make the best leader.
The first round of voting begins Friday evening at 5 p.m. and closes Saturday morning at 9 a.m. The candidate with the fewest votes will be cut and then voting starts again. Voting will continue all day Saturday until one of the seven wins a majority.
Anything could happen this weekend. The race does have two defined front-runners – Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp – but leadership conventions have led to upsets before.
- Brian Topp on couch-surfing through campaign
- Nathan Cullen reflects on weirdest campaign moments and defying expectations
- Federal NDP leadership race explainer
Voting opened online on Mar. 1, but the majority of NDP members have yet to cast their ballots. What many had called a boring race got interesting last week when former NDP leader Ed Broadbent criticized Mulcair, saying he would take the party too far from its left-of-centre roots.
Whoever wins this race will be leader of the opposition. It will be their job to keep the Conservative government accountable in Parliament, to be the face of the NDP and, ultimately, to try and win the next election. The next two days will have a big impact on Canadian politics.
Check out The Vancouver Obeserver's previous coverage of the NDP race and follow along as we keep you informed, live from Toronto.