OTTAWA -- Federal NDP leadership hopefuls will make a critical pitch tonight to supporters in British Columbia -- a province where party members are finding renewed hope after the swearing-in of NDP Premier John Horgan.

Ontario legislator Jagmeet Singh, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and Quebec MP Guy Caron will go head-to-head in Victoria, though Ontario MP Charlie Angus is unable to attend the event due to a serious illness in his family.

The debate comes at a key time for all of the candidates as they strive to sign up as many party members as possible before a registration cutoff on Aug. 17.

The location for the event -- decided before the outcome of the recent provincial election -- is also significant for all contenders who see B.C. as fertile ground for the party.

Peggy Nash, a former Toronto NDP MP and 2012 leadership candidate, acknowledged Horgan's win was "razor thin" but said it is very exciting for the party as it tries to rebuild from a 2015 federal election disappointment.

"Whenever you win, people get excited," she said.

"Winning is way better than losing, so I think that it will be an encouragement and it gives you more resources, too. It means out in B.C. right now they will hiring young activists to come and be part of the new government administration."

Singh's campaign appears to be resonating with politicians in British Columbia, where he has earned the support of eight provincial legislators and four B.C. MPs including, most recently, Alistair MacGregor, the caucus justice critic.

MPs Randall Garrison, Kennedy Stewart and Jenny Kwan have also endorsed Singh.

"He's really catching on here and I'm happy to be someone who has joined that team," MacGregor said in an interview, noting he will attend the Victoria debate.

"I just think he is a really energetic, engaging, dynamic individual who I think is going to make a very real impact if he becomes the leader of our party."

Singh will likely be put to the test during the debate, especially since Elections Canada figures released this week indicate he led the fundraising pack at $353,944 in the second quarter.

"Tonight ... I think you will see a lot more critical analysis of his policies, but I also think you will see him well prepared to defend those because I have seen his confidence grow as this campaign has gone on," MacGregor said.

For his part, Angus raised $123,574 during the same period while Ashton pulled in $70,124. Caron raised $46,970.

One of the biggest considerations for party members beyond a future leader's fundraising capacity is who can "get the ship upright again," Nash added.

"That's something on everyone's mind," she said.

"The other thing that is on peoples' minds is the compass -- what is the direction? What will be the direction? Yes, it is raising money. Yes, it is signing up new members but a big question, especially for New Democrats, is where is the ship headed?"