SASKATOON – NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is making a concerted effort to paint the Liberals and the Conservatives as two old peas in the same corrupt, entitled, unaccountable pod.
In a speech Wednesday to an NDP caucus retreat, Mulcair didn’t mention Justin Trudeau directly.
But the subtext was clear: don’t be fooled into thinking that the shiny new Liberal leader heralds a different way of doing politics.
He asserted that Canadians have only one option — the NDP — if they want to put an end to “politics as usual.”
Liberals have vaulted into the lead in most polls since Trudeau took the helm in April, relegating the NDP to its traditional third-place slot.
After barely acknowledging his existence for five months, Mulcair has recently gone on the offensive against Trudeau.
In his speech Wednesday, Mulcair repeatedly accused the Liberals of being no better or different from the Conservatives on a host of fronts: Senate corruption, income inequality, climate change, protecting their entitlements and their corporate friends.
He referred to the two parties as “old-line parties of the past.”
Mulcair seemed particularly intent on casting doubt on Trudeau’s stated priority to improve the lot of struggling middle-class families.
Over the last 35 years, Mulcair said the wealthiest Canadians have seen their incomes grow while the average Canadian family’s income has fallen by seven per cent.
“Now, the Liberals may hope that Canadians forget their record, they may hope that enough time has passed,” Mulcair said.
“But over those same 35 years, 94 per cent of the income inequality that we’ve experienced in Canada has happened under Liberal governments, not Conservative. You heard that right — 94 per cent.”
He accused both Liberals and Conservatives of having “idly watched a generation of good, full-time jobs disappear.”
On the Senate expenses scandal, Mulcair said the issue isn’t just about individual senators claiming living and travel expenses to which they weren’t entitled.
“It’s about the revolving red and blue doors of Liberal and Conservative entitlement and corruption,” he asserted.
“The fact is, Ottawa is broken. And while the Liberals simply wait for their turn at the trough, the NDP is still the only party that will fix it.”
The NDP has long called for abolition of the Senate.
“While the old parties fight to protect their entitlements and their well-connected friends, Canadian families are struggling like never before,” he said.
Mulcair further accused Conservatives, “just like the Liberals before them,” of gutting rules meant to protect the public, allowing industry to regulate itself in sensitive matters such as food safety, the environment and rail transport.
And he said neither party has done anything to tackle the threat of climate change.
“New Democrats know it’s time to chart a different course. And unlike the old-line parties of the past, we’re actually going to deliver,” he said.
“Friends, this is our moment … to put an end to politics as usual.”