Why is Mulcair thwarting his own political makeover? - Macleans.ca

Why is Mulcair thwarting his own political makeover?

Martin Patriquin on the NDP leader’s unexpected constitutional quest


Thomas Mulcair is supposed to be on a charm offensive.

Since taking the helm of the NDP, the bearded Beaconsfieldian has done much to make himself and his party more electable. He bled the NDP constitution of the word ‘socialism’, started saying words like “entrepreneur” and “middle class” a whole lot, and punted the party’s pesky far-left fringes. On the personal front, Mulcair has buttoned his renowned temper, something a Quebec NDP higher-up told me came as a result of a “concerted effort” from both the party and Mulcair himself.

The results have been impressive. The party maintained relatively solid PJE (Pre-Justin Era) numbers—a remarkable feat for a party that lost Jack Layton, its most successful leader, at the height of his popularity. In Quebec, where most politicos and commentators figured the orange crush would fade as quickly as it came, Mulcair has remained well ahead of the Bloc Québécois and the PJE Liberals nearly two years after the federal election. Dippers approved of him to the resounding tune of 93.2 per cent during the recent convention in Montreal. Having shed (or at least closeted) his dreaded Hulk persona, Tom is more often seen looking rested and pleasant. He has every reason to be as much.

Which is why Mulcair’s recent Supreme Court sortie is all the more perplexing. The details—I’ll be quick, so as to avoid narcolepsy—go like this: a fellow wrote a book suggesting former (and very dead) Supreme Court Justice Bora Laskin leaked details of judicial proceedings regarding the repatriation of the constitution to the Liberal government of the time. Predictably, the news caused a near-riot in certain Quebec circles, with much of the province’s politicos, commentators and the National Assembly calling for an investigation. Mulcair quickly joined in. “What we’re doing is standing up foursquare in defence of the independence of the Supreme Court,” he said. “Canadians are entitled to have a full answer to these important questions.”

Should there be an investigation? I haven’t the foggiest. Smarter people than I have wondered out loud whether such a thing is merited. What I find weird is how Mulcair’s dive into ancient constitutional matters flies in the face of his own and his party’s studied, deliberate makeover. The cliché, and it applies here, is that Quebec-related constitutional chatter seriously annoys Canadians outside of Quebec. Were this only the case, Mulcair could arguably say he’s placating his power base in Quebec. But there’s a second, not-at-all unexpected part of the equation: Quebecers themselves seemingly don’t care about constitutional matters.

Beyond the PQ government and Quebec’s cloistered nationalist set, the Laskin Affair (it barely deserves capital letters) has barely even registered in the province. “In Quebec, after one week, you’d have to do a top 200 search of the headlines to find it,” Jean-François Dumas, of the media monitoring firm Influence Communication, told me. This so irked Le Devoir’s Michel David that he penned a column lamenting Quebecer’s distinct lack of fury. “It’s springtime, the Canadiens are in the playoff, it’s time to move on to other things, no?” He asked, tongue jammed into his cheek. Mulcair should take the advice. In taking on the legitimacy of an ancient Supreme Court decision, the NDP leader has seemingly managed to find the one issue that irritates Canadians and bores Quebecers in equal measure.

And it isn’t the first time. Just this winter Mulcair challenged that other dull thud, the Clarity Act, by pushing for a 50-per-cent-plus-one threshold for Quebec separation. Mulcair was duly thumped at the time, and we haven’t heard anything on the subject since.

The question is: why does Tom Mulcair keep straying from the script of a perfectly effective makeover? Is he trying to appeal to would-be Bloc Québécois voters? If so, he shouldn’t. The Bloc is in deep trouble, even beyond its dismal poll numbers: never a fundraising powerhouse, it will arguably suffer the most once the per-vote subsidy is fully eliminated in 2015. Is he worried about hanging on to Quebec’s (inherently nationalist) lefty vote? Maybe, but with the Bloc hobbled, the NDP’s real fight in Quebec is with the Liberals. And any Quebecer reconsidering the Liberals isn’t likely going to care a hoot about the Constitution, 50-percent-plus-one or anyone named Bora Laskin.

I can’t help but think that Mulcair’s flights of fancy are a product of another aspect of his personality, the one in which he lashes out at whatever he deems a threat. If this is the case, then Hulkair clearly has his blinkered eyes on Justin Trudeau. He sees what everyone else sees: that the Constitution business—a vestige of Trudeau père—dovetailed with Justin Trudeau’s rise to the Liberal throne, making it plunderable political fodder. Hulkair must see how the Conservatives have all but dropped Mulcair from their sights—when was the last time you saw a Mulcair attack ad?—focusing instead on the inexperienced leader of a third party that was supposedly on its deathbed not two years ago. He sees how the polls suggest Justin has stunted the NDP’s ascendancy.

Hulkair sees, and Hulkair smashes. Pity that poor charm offensive.


Why is Mulcair thwarting his own political makeover?

  1. When can we start talking about DTS…deranged Trudeau syndrome? I swear Dons’s going to get in on it next on coaches corner.

  2. I believe there WAS an investigation. Did the author mean another, outside, independent investigation?

  3. The rest of us are tired or Quebec

    Subsidizing Quebec.
    Quebec politicians.
    And listening to their tantrums.

    • No, we’re tired of the rightwing extremists slashing education and cultural investments in the rest of the country. We’re proud of Quebec for standing up to the crypto-fascists.

      • First of all education and cultural investments are provincial responsibilities. Second please provide examples of where education funding has been cut. As for the cultural stuff I would cut them all off and tell them to raise their own money from the private sector or citizens who want to see this stuff. If people are interested they will pay to see what event is being put on.

        • You are aware then that “cultural investments” or the arts, provide a positive net return on investment? No, i can see you aren’t. It isn’t the 50s any more you know. It’s ok for Conservatives to like the arts too.

          • Culture investments are not a federal responsibility.
            Second I could care less whether they are a positive net return on investment. Let the private and business sector support culture events. No tulip festivals etc. etc. It’s like that interpretive dance chick on Sun News. We are actually paying for that crap? If people like it that is their right. However, those that like it should pay for it. It has nothing to do with the arts or culture. I do like it but when I go to a concert I will gladly pay out of my own pocket. That is how the system should work. Show me where the mandate of the federal government is support tulip festivals etc. etc.

          • Positive = making money. It isn’t rocket science. Do you think you’re paying the full unsubsidized cost of your concert experience, then you’re dreaming?
            I didn’t say anything about the federal mandate, but it’s not a lot different from subsidizing the cost of roads. We all use them. it’s public good for most of us and necessary.
            Your position is purely ideological. Basically you don’t want public $ going to what you don’t like. That’s childish. I don’t want any public $ going to help big business. But clearly there are times when it makes more sense for the govt to help them break into a foreign market than to simply leave them to flounder – especially if other govts are doing it too…AND the net return is positive economically.
            I’d rather the $ were spent on environmental problems. But i have to live with stuff i don’t like, as do you. The arts are a positive public good.

      • Could you provide any evidence of such “slashing” of provincial budgets? I didn’t know the federal government had the power to set provincial budgets, but that’s your accusation.

        But I’m guessing your just repeating NDP talking points, oblivious to the fact that culture and education are provincial responsibilities.

    • Anybody following the testimony in the Charbonneau inquiry will know that Quebec politics is corrupt. The latest testimony shows the corruption back to Maurice Duplessis. In the meantime the ROC gets to pay for the corruption through higher equalization payments.

      • Duplessis was [cough] a so – con. You knew that, right!

  4. Tom really needs to focus attention on Justin’s support for selling out Canada’s resources to profit foreign companies. Canada needs a Statoil and we could have had one with Pierre’s Petro-Canada. Paint Justin as the naive freemarket extremist that he is – how hard is that?

    • Pretty hard. You honestly think the majority of Canadians [older ones anyway] can easily be persuaded that a Trudeau would sell Canada out? Good luck with that ndp.

    • My take is that the problem is not that the buyer of Nexen was a foreign company. The problem is that it was a state owned foreign company. As a Chinese SOE, the interests of China will be the prevailing guiding principles, and with an essentially bottomless pit of money with which to fund Nexen, what the Chinese government wants, the Chinese government will get.

      So, one should hardly be surprised if we see Nexen *not* operating in a free market manner, but rather making decisions that the Chinese government deems beneficial to it even if they disregard the bottom line and profit seeking.

      And, of course, Nexen’s competitors are put at an unfair advantage due to the fact that Nexen is backed by the Chinese state, i.e., for all intents and purposes, regardless of how mismanaged Nexen may be in the future, it cannot fail unless the Chinese government is willing to let it fail.

  5. Wow, name-calling. How persuasive. Nobody cares? – except all three Quebec political parties who hold a position identical to Mulcair’s. And why are the old chattering classe fighting back with such venom and lack of reason?

  6. Part of the issue is that the Conservatives want to see Mulcair continuing to do well in Quebec. Hence the attacks on the dauphin. At some point the NDP will have to deal with Trudeau in a more direct and substantive way. Not sure there will be attack ads but Mulcair will get his fiery temper out there for all to see. He is not going to go down without a fight in the belle province. That is his base and he needs to retain it or he and the party are back to third place in the House.

  7. Mulcair and the NDP are focused on Canadian unity and lasting prosperity. On economic matters only Mulcair talks about a balanced and sustainable economy that truly benefits the entire country now and well into the future. Among the major parties, only the NDP seems to understand the Quebec people, their culture issues and thier place within Canada. This federalist party almost obliterated the seperatists and all they get from liberals and conservatives for this massive accomplishment is derision. Liberqls and conservatives are the problem. The Trudeau liberals patriated the constition without Quebec. Mulroney tried to fix that but the rest of Canada, guided by godfather Trudeau, helped quash that as well. If there is anyone left in Canada outside of Quebec who truly wants Quebec to be a full partner then they can look at only one party to accomplish that nation building task – the NDP.

    • Yes, vote NDP if you want a government that focuses all it’s resources and attention on Quebec while ignoring the rest of the country. Well said.

      • Two ignorant comments don’t add up to one good one you know.

        • Right, I must be ignorant. The fact that Mulcair spends his time concerned with his Quebec base, and not the good of Canada, clearly makes me pointing that out ignorant. Thanks for coming out.

          • I’m not defending what Mulcair is up to in QC. But it is ridiculous to suggest that all his policies are focused on QC to the detriment of the rest of his parties interests in the rest of the country.

          • Really, ridiculous? So far his biggest policy stands have been:

            1) Repealing the Clarity Act (to appease separatists)
            2) No pipelines West, no pipelines South, no pipelines North. But pipelines “east” are A-OK!
            3) From the NDP policy book: “Our federalism supports Quebec’s
            right to its own progressive economic and social practices, and to the development of its own sense of nationhood.
            4) “Recognizing the national character of Quebec, based in particular on a society with French as the language of work and the common language of the public domain”.
            5) “Recognizing that Quebec can withdraw, with compensation, from federal programs that fall within its jurisdiction.”
            6) Questioniing the Supreme Court of Canada to gain favour with separatists.

            How’s that for “ridiculous”?

          • Ok ok. You win that one. I still think i’m up on you by a ton, so don’t get cocky.