A gun registry? No. Yes. No. Martin Patriquin on Mulcair’s flip-flops

How the NDP Leader’s past statements often conflict with his current policy



Glenn Thibeault says he was never the biggest fan of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Yet the erstwhile NDP MP, who represented the federal riding of Sudbury before jumping to the Ontario Liberals last December, says he would have likely stuck it out with the NDP had it not been for the guns. Specifically, Mulcair’s waffling on the country’s long-gun registry.

The NDP vowed to not revive the provisions in Canada’s Firearms Act compelling Canadians to register their rifles and shotguns, which the governing Conservatives abolished in 2012. This part of the act was an abiding thorn in the side of NDP’s northern, working-class supporters, and for the most part the party wasn’t disappointed to see it go. “The registry’s not coming back,” as NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison told Maclean’s last December.

Mere days later, however, Mulcair announced that the NDP would seek out a “light” gun registry, which would strip out the cumbersome bureaucracy but would nonetheless “trace all firearms in Canada.” His chosen language was as significant as his timing: Mulcair said as much in French, days before the 25th anniversary of the killing of 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. The likely reason: the long-gun registry remains popular in Quebec, where the NDP has 54 of its 95 seats.

Much of his caucus groaned; Thibeault decided to bolt. “Doing one thing in Quebec and then doing another thing outside of it was just enough for me,” Thibeault says today, calling Mulcair’s apparent reversal “a complete disregard for the [NDP] caucus.”

(Thomas Duncan/CP)

(Thomas Duncan/CP)

Is Thibeault’s sortie a bit of well-timed political brinkmanship against his former boss? Perhaps. His new leader, Kathleen Wynne, is actively supporting Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, after all. Yet Mulcair’s apparent contradictions on issues as fundamental as gun control is fast becoming a source of partisan attacks on the man who may become this country’s 23rd prime minister. Apart from gun control, Mulcair’s lengthy career as a lawyer and provincial politician in Quebec is studded with views and principles that seemingly put him at odds with the party he currently leads.

Mulcair first rose to prominence in Quebec as a lawyer for the anglo rights group Alliance Quebec. His tenure there is marked by his fight against the provisions of Bill 101, Quebec’s language law, forcing business owners to have French-only signs. In 2011, as an NDP MP, Mulcair advocated for this very law to be applied to federal institutions in Quebec territory.

In 1994, shortly after his election as a Liberal MNA, Mulcair denounced the political interference of Quebec’s powerful union movement, saying it “was interfering with the rules of democracy.” Last month, Mulcair declared he was “extremely proud” that the FTQ, Quebec’s largest and arguably most powerful union federation, essentially endorsed the NDP in the coming election.

Mulcair has also expressed his admiration of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Britain’s Labour government in the 1980s “had its nose in everything,” Mulcair said in Quebec’s National Assembly in 2001, as quoted in Hansard. Under Thatcher, who even in death remains bête noire of the British left wing, the Hansard transcript says Mulcair went on to say: “A wind of freedom and liberalism blew through England, and instead of being one of the most under-performing countries in all of Europe, it became one of the best-performing.”

In 2004, when he was Quebec’s environment minister, Mulcair advocated for the export and sale of bulk water from Quebec. Keeping water in the beds of the province’s rivers was akin to “saying we have to leave all of Quebec’s trees in the ground,” Mulcair is quoted in the minutes of a parliamentary committee. This, despite a federal ban on bulk water sales put in place in 1985, as well as a raft of studies suggesting the bulk removal of water was environmentally problematic.

(Reached for comment, NDP spokesperson Marc-André Viau denied Mulcair ever expressed admiration for Thatcher or support for bulk water sales.)

There are apparently limits to how much the NDP will bend to the will of its leader, however. Despite Mulcair’s pledge to bring it back, rural NDP MPs can rest assured that there will be no further gun control legislation enacted by an NDP government. “There exists many ways to work with police to ensure they have the necessary information to work safely without a [gun] registry,” says Viau.


A gun registry? No. Yes. No. Martin Patriquin on Mulcair’s flip-flops

  1. Can’t help but notice with these last few days of polling(if you believe pols), the bloom is starting to come off the rose of Thom Mulcair and the NDP, too many Flip-Flops, and he wears too many faces, he is starting to flail. Between the MSM and Harper’s trying to debase Trudeau’s imagine with these ‘ not ready’ ads, and the medias helping doing its share of pile on too, it seems to have put Mr. Trudeau and the grits in the underdog position of the election. That’s all Trudeau has to do now from this point on, is give Harper and Mulcair a bop over the head a few times like he did in the last debate, and he can pretty well get the interior and exterior contractors in(but don’t say that in public), to finally get some repairs done to 24 Sussex Drive, because the guy that lives there now is presently letting our country fall in disrepair like the House he resides in paid for by the citizens and voters of this country. The façade is finally starting to crack on, both Thom and Stevo and his corrupt PMO.

    • 1. The NDP is still in the lead and Mulcair is still personally more popular than Trudeau. The Liberal bump, it’s not huge, is almost entirely in Ontario and the Maritimes. The Liberal vote is still less efficient than the NDP, and Canadians have not forgotten about Justin Trudeau’s massive flip-flops, litany of bizarre statements and more than a year of lacking policies. He will not overtake Mulcair.

      2. Trudeau did not even come close to winning the debate; he over-exceeded expectations that were ridiculously low to begin with, period. He was as inarticulate as usual (he must have said “actually” and like” more than 50 times), to paraphrase Andrew Coyne he came across as “yappy”, and aside from Mulcair’s awkward first twenty minutes where he seemed like he was on valium, the leader of the opposition did extremely well. He delivered several knock-out blows, cited evidence and held his own. Also, Trudeau’s closing statement was HORRIBLE “Canada is what it is and we are what we are” barf. Some segments of the media were willing to give Trudeau more accolades than he deserved, but that doesn’t mean he won or came across as a leader. He won’t come anywhere near winning the next debate.

      • We are still way too far out to predict the outcome, but if you really think there is no Liberal bump and corresponding NDP dip, then you are not paying attention.

        As for the debate, Trudeau did indeed benefit from low expectations. I guess that is what happens when the CPC and the NDP run around for months saying their guys will be The Greatest Debaters Ever. They made their bed…

        Besides, aside from low expectations Trudeau did do very well in the debate. That said, I really do hope the NDP and CPC continue to thump their chests over how much their guys are going to win the debate over Trudeau. Or maybe they will have learned their lesson on that.

        By the way, that new ad of Mulcair’s is pretty good, but I do wish he would be one step back from the camera. I get that he is trying to channel Trudeau there but it feels like he is invading my personal space.

  2. Really? The NDP spokesperson denied something recorded in HANSARD?

    Oh, that’s just painful.

  3. Marty is such a right wing flack: it was only a matter of time before his pretense of professionalism would wear off.
    He uses a an opportunistic floor-crosser as his main source – a man who joined the corrupt Wynne gov’t surely is a great judge of character.
    I’m sure his next articles will be on statements made by Harper and Justin 15 years ago – with no context provided in both cases! LOL!

    • So you’re saying Mulcair is not a ‘floor crosser’? He didn’t resign from the Quebec Liberal Party and join the NDP? Wow I’m glad you corrected that bit of history?

      • Mulcair left the Quebec Liberal caucus over condo developments in public parks…. Thibeault left the NDP, despite not having given any indication to the leadership that he was unhappy, at a time when federal NDP support was cratering and Kathleen Wynne was still popular. Yeah, there’s a difference.

    • That floor crossing goof looks just like his ex boss, a couple of sore looking r sole!

  4. The fact that Mr. Mulcair has held a variety of views on various matters makes him that much more appealing to intelligent voters who know that the world is not a black and white place. There is even a certain revulsion provoked by politicians who claim to be ideologically pure. Mulcair is more like the typical thinking person who has worked through issues and understands the need to compromise and keep adapting to a changing world. The Trudeau pure of heart shtick is a nauseating insult.
    We are not looking for a knight to pull a sword out of a rock. A competent, clear headed individual will do.

    • What a complete an utter ignoramus you are! That tool couldn’t think on his own. He’s just another libtard/ndp floor walker. Sorry pal but I don’t think he can help you with your welfare check, that’s a provincial matter.

      • Thank you, pal, for proving my point!

    • The issue here however, is not one of a thinking, compromising person. Both Viau and Mulcair are denying he said what is on record in the Hansard, this seems just too much like the current occupant of 24 Sussex.

      I wonder if the Union brothers and sisters in England feel that Thatcher was good for them? Might not be quite the support Union workers in Canada are looking for.

      He might be a good successor to Harper though, after years of having Harper give away our oil, gas and jobs, we could have Mulcair give away our water.

    • Clear headed enough to flip on the gun registry, give different stories in French and English, pander to the separatists in quebec to make it easier for them to separate, support the Cons UCCB that gives money to millionaires and billionaires. We have had a PM lie to use for 9 years…can’t see Canadians wanting another one.

  5. In fairness, Mulcair kinda flip-flopped on the question of a long gun registry (Harper and Trudeau have done it many times in their careers), it has been a difficult issue for the NDP as a party containing both urban and rural elements. However, many of the criticisms in this article are not fair –

    1. Tom Mulcair expressed admiration for Margaret Thatcher 15 years ago, and his comments are being taken out of context. When he talked about too much regulation, he was probably referring to Britain’s centrally planned economy that Thatcher did away with, complete with government owned steel, mines, railroads (the only thing that shouldn’t have been privatised) and ration books (kinda like Cuba). In fact, many of these inefficient industries hampered the ability of the British state to pay for the good things that Labour introduced (the National Health Service). We’ve always known that Mulcair is a moderate, third way social democrat in the mould of Tony Blair.

    This is old news, and it is frankly dumb to take a quote from 15 years ago and not pay attention to context whatsoever. Trudeau has said ludicrous things over the past four years; if we applied the same logic to him one could accuse him of either being a Quebec sovereigntist or wanting to emulate China’s “basic dictatorship”. Let’s use some critical thinking here people, okay?

    2. When Glenn Thibeault left the federal NDP they were polling in the low 20s, and sometimes even the high teens, NDP support was cratering, the federal Liberals seemed ascendent, and Kathleen Wynne had yet to alienate progressive voters with the privatisation of Hydro One. Also, Thibeault backed Mulcair during the 2012 leadership race (the author could have mentioned that, just saying…) and he had a lot of authority in the NDP caucus. Mulcair’s flip-flopping over the issue of a long gun registry is nowhere near as bad as privatising a public utility in the face of overwhelming public opposition despite not having made a peep about it during the campaign. The timing of Thibeault’s departure hardly seems coincidental, and apparently he had been in talks with the federal Liberals before the 2011 Orange Surge. He seems a tad opportunistic.

    3. Yes, he was an Anglo rights lawyer, DECADES AGO, however, it entirely possible that he has changed his mind. Harper, decades ago, when he was a teenager, described himself as having been a “Trudeau Liberal”… People can change their minds and still retain credibility. Many English Canadian progressives have come to the realisation that Quebec nationalism must be accommodated. Quebeckers wish to live in a French speaking society, and if we want to make our country work we have to recognise that.

    I understand that this isn’t meant to be a fair article, but a smear intended to make Mulcair seem disingenuous. To progressives who might take it seriously, I advise them to do their homework and not be naive. Mulcair is not a conservative in socialist clothing. Why would a cynical opportunist choose to run for a party that had never won a seat in Quebec during any federal election? It doesn’t really make any sense. Also, he was involved with the NDP during the 1970s, and he was kicked out of the Quebec Liberal caucus because he opposed condominiums in public parks (seems like a progressive to me).

    • And of course Thibeault’s comments intentionally timed. Kathleen Wynne seems to think that she works for Gerald Butts rather than the people of Ontario at the moment.

    • “Why would a cynical opportunist choose to run for a party that had never won a seat in Quebec during any federal election?”

      He was a cabinet minister in Quebec. He did not want to be a mere backbencher. His end game was to lead the party. It is easy to see why he would choose the NDP. First, the LPC was falling apart. Everyone could see that Dion had no real grip on the party, they had virtually no infrastructure, no ground game and no money. They were battered and people were already saying they were dying. It was clear that Harper and Layton forced the election in 2005 as they saw their opportunity to destroy the LPC. There was no way Mulcair was going to hitch his star to that party.

      The CPC and he could not work out an agreement, and besides, Harper was firmly in control so no leadership possibilities there.

      Mulcair knew he could win Outremont (not sure if there is any truth to the rumour that he waited to see if Dion was going to allow Trudeau to run there before he threw his hat into the ring), and he knew his best chance of becoming the leader of a party was through the NDP. Further, he (incorrectly) assessed the LPC as being a failing power and believed they would not be a factor in the future. He could very well have believed this election would be between him and Harper. He could very well have believed his easiest path to 24 Sussex was through the NDP. I mean, that is what happened, right? (Aside from the fact that Trudeau did what no one predicted he could do).

  6. Harper has flip-flopped more than anyone; however, if the author wants to talk about monumental flip-flops let’s talk about a party leader who in 2009 voted in favour of tougher penalties for marijuana possession (including jail time), but then admitted to using it himself and is now Mr. Legalise It.

    Deficits? Why a month ago Trudeau was against them, and “committed to a balanced budget,” but now it’s outrageous that Mulcair also won’t commit to running a deficit. Apparently, the NDP has moved to the Far Right (according to the guy who introduced the largest cuts to healthcare in Canadian history, Paul Martin), and they will introduce “massive cuts” to healthcare and childcare in the future. Even though the NDP is promising to create 1 million subsidised daycare spaces, protect federal health transfers and they are the only party proposing significant increases in revenue..

    Income splitting? Back in 2009 Trudeau said that it “sounded like a good idea”…
    Now, he’s against it, REALLY against it supposedly. But yes let’s only expose Mulcair to scrutiny.

    • Sigh…

      The fact you know about this alleged “flip flops” from Trudeau kind of suggests that they were covered by the media.

      I know the NDP are not accustomed to scrutiny, but your guy is contending for the big prize. It comes with the territory. Maybe stop whining about it.

    • We know everything about Harper because of vetting and it is the job of the press to vet the leaders and candidates in an election. That didn’t happen in Alberta. Frankly, I believe no one took the NDP seriously so we never knew who they were running as candidates. If your leader has some warts, lets see them.

  7. And that is why I’d rather see Mulcair as PM if Harper loses. Even Mulcair doesn’t believe what he is saying, and he wouldn’t actually do what he’s promising.

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