In other news, Tom Mulcair is also here -

In other news, Tom Mulcair is also here

The NDP leader picks a fight he can win


It is easy to forget about Thomas Mulcair. He has not recently partaken of an elaborate photo op, nor recently confessed to have partook of an illicit substance since taking office. And the orange line seems slowly to be squiggling its way back to the NDP’s traditional fraction of the public’s support.

Of course, the NDP’s number is still some four times that of the Senate. So here, for that and other reasons, Mr. Mulcair is well-positioned to crow for the cameras, as he did this morning, explaining his case near the outset with a particularly florid sentence.

“Today,” he said, “we are here to mark the beginning of the end of the discredited, outdated and undemocratic institution of Conservative and Liberal entitlement, extravagance and excess.”

The cause today and for the next week—and for as long as the NDP has existed and for the next two years—is the abolition of the Senate. Mr. Mulcair is to be making various appearances in various parts of the country for the purposes of touting the NDP’s opposition to the upper chamber’s existence.

He would get to a principled argument against maintaining an appointed upper house, but Mr. Mulcair proceeded first with the roll call of the infamous: Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb, “jet-setting Pamela Wallin,” Mike Duffy (“the ultimate Ottawa insider and the best known fictional resident from PEI since Anne of Green Gables”) and Raymond Lavigne (“you’ll find him in government housing of a very different sort over at the Ottawa jail”).

New Democrats luxuriate here in the benefit of having never been popular enough to form government and thus having never been in a position to appoint anyone to that place (though Mr. Mulcair made a point of noting that the party had rejected Paul Martin’s attempt to appoint an NDP senator in 2005). And this matter of the Senate revives in them some of that anti-establishment spirit that might be said to define them until they ever possess the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The fact is, Ottawa is broken,” Mr. Mulcair said, echoing his sainted predecessor, “and the debris is scattered across the Senate floor. Canadians are sick and tired of the revolving red and blue doors of Liberal and Conservative corruption … Canadians are saying, enough is enough. Ottawa is broken and the NDP…”

The studio audience, all seemingly party staff with apparently not much to do, cheered and Mr. Mulcair, still figuring out this speech-making thing, paused to finish his thought.

“And the NDP is the only party that will fix it.”

On the basic existence of the Senate, Mr. Mulcair also has the benefit of an unequivocal and strident position. The Prime Minister would like to reform the chamber, but not so much that he has been willing to move forward with his own legislation and maybe not so much that he’s willing to deal with the provinces and as such Mr. Harper might end up being in favour of abolition, even if he told Mr. Mulcair just six months ago that abolition wasn’t a realistic proposal. Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, wants to somehow change the way senators are appointed.

So at least until Mr. Harper decides to change his mind, Mr. Mulcair has the abolition argument to himself. And even if Mr. Harper decides to change his mind, the NDP has the status of being into abolition way before it was cool.

Of fixing Ottawa, Mr. Mulcair must compete directly with Mr. Trudeau, who, though he might lead the establishment party of the 20th century, is angling to be the living embodiment of newness, not merely with his talking about smoking doobies, but with his stated interest in changing the way politics is done. On that count, Mr. Trudeau is possibly leading on points.

But on almost all counts the next two years seem wide open to possibility.

If there is something fun about Mr. Trudeau, there is still something formidable about Mr. Mulcair. That, plus the benefit of starting with 100 seats, makes it still conceivable that he will become prime minister sometime shortly after the 2015 election. He had a decent spring in the House, with his prosecutorial approach (and he promised further interrogations to come whenever the House returns) and he has some talent around him on the official opposition’s benches.

If Mr. Mulcair is not quite a riveting speaker, his speechwriters at least gave him a few good quips this morning. He can handle himself in a scrum and seem to look and sound the part of a serious man with various references to relatively arcane matters of public policy. He can seem like he knows what he’s talking about, but he is also just a bit audacious—flirting, for instance, with linking the disaster in Lac-Megantic to government policy, apparently without necessarily wanting to assert blame and long before any kind of conclusions can be drawn.

This morning, he was asked about Liberal plans, as the reporter phrased it, to discuss “the implementation of a system for putting all their expenses online.” “Will there,” the reporter asked, “be some plan to put all NDP MPs’ expenses online?”

“We’ve been doing that for months,” Mr. Mulcair came back.

“Every single expense?” the reporter clarified.

“Yes,” Mr. Mulcair said.

This was apparently reference to the fact that some NDP MPs now use their websites to link to the expense summaries that are publicly released through Parliament. The Liberal plan would seem to seek to go beyond that, but the scrum moved on before the distinctions could be explored.

On other topics—Syria, Pauline Marois, free trade—he was more expansive. And nearer the end of his time with reporters, he presaged, with something like the foreword to a treatise, the larger discussion he apparently seeks to soon have.

“Sometimes the events that happen in a year allow you to put the spotlight on some of the major policy differences between you, so there’s a whole approach to governing that the NDP is proposing. When we talk about public protection, and you know, sometimes people say well, you mean public safety, I say, no, public protection. That’s a verb. Public safety is a noun,” he helpfully explained. “Regulation has taken on an only negative connotation. It’s always, you know, put together with red tape and it’s always considered something to be gotten rid of. When you realize that regulatory schemes exist to protect the public, whether it’s in food safety or railways or maritime search and rescue, you understand that when the government has savings that have to be realized, you have to set up priorities, and the very last thing you should be cutting is public protection. Tragically, because the Conservatives like being in power, but they don’t like governing, the first thing they tend to cut is the direct service to the public, is the public protection …We’re going to have that open conversation.”

Is there a conversation to be had here? Probably. Is it the defining conversation of the next two years? Maybe. But even if it is—or whatever the argument for 2015 is to be—it will be even harder than killing the Senate. And it for now remains to be seen whether Mr. Mulcair can both lead and then win that larger debate. Even being heard might be a challenge.


In other news, Tom Mulcair is also here

  1. “New Democrats luxuriate here in the benefit of having never been popular
    enough to form government and thus having never been in a position to
    appoint anyone to that place (though Mr. Mulcair made a point of noting
    that the party had rejected Paul Martin’s attempt to appoint an NDP senator in 2005).
    And this matter of the Senate revives in them some of that
    anti-establishment spirit that might be said to define them until they
    ever possess the Prime Minister’s Office”

    lol…that’s naughty of you. But i like it.

    That may be their problem in the end – not necessarily Mulcair – that the NDP like to cling to this notion of being the anti establishment party [ although i think Mulcair tries to have it both ways] while the majority of Canadians that can be bothered to care simply aren’t all that anti establishment. After all, we have to have an establishment of some sort, don’t we? In fact, if they’re ver to really push the LPC out into the deep cold, they’ll have to become an establishment party themselves. The rub is…will the voting public ever buy it? Doesn’t look like it so far.

    • but isn’t that supposed to be the CPC thing too? “We’re outsiders here to be a-cleanin’ up this big gubbmint mess, har har, pass the hors d’hourves and assign another patronage appointment, jeeves”

  2. Who?

    Honestly, if he didn’t have a beard I wouldn’t remember him at all.

    And if Trudeau grows a beard again this November, Mulcair won’t be noticed at all.

    • Have you considered twitter? Please do. Or as Paul Wells once asked “Is NOT commenting an option for you?

      • Amazing to me that a site asks for comments, but then has so much trouble accepting them…..and attacks posters out of the blue.

        Good morning to you too!

        • So that’s a no.

          • For you too, apparently. LOL

      • Emy is Maclean’s official mega-commenter who takes this position quite seriously. Her comments are meant to reflect the heavy burden she bears in accomplishing that task. Please show her the proper deference.

    • Come on people.

      I get as annoyed by Emily as anyone, but THAT WAS FUNNY.

  3. I know history doesn’t repeat itself, not really. But maybe, occasionally it throws up a strikingly odd semblance of itself?
    Stanfield was a serious guy [who was also humorous] with a serious agenda when he went up against Trudeau mrk.1 – game over. According to John English, he too ran on a lot more style than substance in those early days, more then is commonly recalled. Of course it was a very different time and he was later to put a professional team together[ Davey and co] to make up for his political deficiencies and inexperience; and of course there was little doubt Pierre had the intellectual horsepower when he needed it. We just don’t know about JT yet. And Mulcair too isn’t much of a Stanfield clone. Still… i felt a bit for Robert too, looking back.

    • Evocative post.

  4. partook – LOL, it’s a real word! Laughed so hard I nearly shat my pants.

  5. I’m certainly no fan of the Senate and am becoming angrier with some of them in there by the day, but it’s easy for the NDP to campaign on abolishing it since they’ve never formed a government! They don’t have Senators like the Conservatives and Liberals do so it’s easy for Mulcair to get kind of sanctimonious about it.

    • Mulcair is all talk about the Senate. It is the new whipping boy/girl for the opposition parties. However, the fact is the amending formula will not allow it and is Mulcair really going to abolish the Senate including its Quebec and Maritime representation. That is highly unlikely.

      • Indeed, Mulcair’s chances are only slightly better than Harper’s, and that only because he will be touting a simpler, “take it or leave it” plan while Harper will likely have a flawed, more complex plan in mind.

        I do hope if he ever becomes PM he keeps his word and appoints senators only if necessary to pass legislation.

  6. In terms of substance and intellect Mulcair is miles ahead of Justin Trudeau. I just hope the electorate is smart enough to see that when it comes time to vote.

    • You are probably right. However, Canadians are never going to turn the national treasury over to the NDP.

      • i realize the CPC has a vested interest in maintaining certain images, and CPC supporters will swallow pretty much anything, but we’re talking about a party whose big economic initiative for the last few elections has been…GASP!…minor reductions in the amount of interest credit card companies can charge. Anyone looking for major left-wing reforms would probably be disappointed by todays NDP. Heck, if today’s Mulcair, Harper and Trudeau had been the leaders back in the 50s and 60s would we even have medicare?

        • Harper is the biggest enemy of national health care

      • Bush turn over a broken and empty treasury to Obama . Harper has done the same for Canada . Only a fool would keep it in the hands of Harper

      • “However, Canadians are never going to turn the national treasury over to the NDP.”

        It’s way past time Canadians learned the truth about financial management by the NDP, and ignored the propaganda.

        Of the 52 years the NDP has formed governments in Canada since 1980, they’ve run balanced budgets for exactly half of those years and
        deficits the other half. This is a better record than both the
        Conservatives (balanced budgets 37% of years in government) and the
        Liberals (only 27%), as well as both Social Credit and PQ governments.
        It’s not just the number of years of balance that is relevant: it’s also
        the size of the deficits or surpluses that are important. For this,
        the most important figure is the size of deficits as a share of GDP.
        For this measure as well, NDP governments have the best record. The
        average balance (deficit) as a share of provincial GDP for the 52 years
        of NDP governments in Canada is -0.77%, compared to -1.82% for all
        Liberal governments and -0.82% for all Conservative governments over the past thirty years.

    • Definitely the strongest of the federal leaders

      • And Canadians are never going to turn the national treasury over to the NDP (unless they suffer some kind of collective aneurysm), Mulclair’s obvious gifts notwithstanding. I say leave collectivism to the ants. We’re simians. We can do better than that lockstep sh*t.

        • see above about CPC mythmaking, crazypants

          • I like the “crazypants” part.

            We’re still going to win, of course. You know that already. Mulcair is a canny careerist leading…socialists, and Trudeau is ’72 McGovern with better hair, more sexual appeal…and way fewer smarts.

            Carney waves the Lib banner in 2019. (The fowl entrails have revealed all.) Prior to that, Harper…until he retires in 2017 to be with his family.

          • Fascist are finished running Canada ,you don’t have the numbers . Harper is a quitter , he quit Manning he’ll quit Canada as well

          • Crazypants is a term of quasi-enderment for you, mr. Quinn,

        • What national treasury , Harper drained every red cent

          • Arguably, at the behest of the oppostition parties. You can’t demand the spigots be opened, then condemn the operator for following suit lest his throat be cut.

          • The Master economist started with a surplus . He is responsible for the spending not the opposition . He should step aside and let a us fix Canada

          • GST cut created deficiteven before recession.

        • Do you realize that Harper has increased our debt by nearly 200 billion in 7 years and gave us a deficit of 160 billion where we had a surplus . Only fools would vote for such incompetence I’d rather chew tin foil then vote in another Conservative , Mulcair has shown us he is ethical and patriotic . Harper has neither of those quality’s

    • Would you concede though that the team behind Trudeau is stronger than the team behind Mulcair?

      I’d be more comfortable with Mulcair if I wasn’t so weary of his caucus.

    • I don’t believe this to be true. I haven’t come across anything by
      Mulcair that makes me think he’s nothing more than an average man of
      intelligence. He is a Lawyer and has years of experience in politics but that doesn’t make him a man of substance and intelligence, sorry.

      I have seen his actions though and they remind me of Stephen Harper.

  7. Protection’s a noun.

    • Is Mulcair being slandered, perhaps, by a lousy translator?

      Or is he just being stubborn?

  8. We can’t vote for Harper , that would only encourage his agenda , We can’t put Justin in the PM chair we don’t know if he has an agenda . Mulcair is the only sane choice ,His agenda is to build a more sustainable Canada

    • The statement “build a more sustainable Canada” isn’t exactly full of specific policy points, or even really resembles a direction an agenda will take. So basically you’re saying Mulcair is just as non-specific and vague as the rest of them. I agree.

      • Your lack of research shows that you don’t question the status que .Harper has certainly proven himself incompetent and poor judgement in his complacency. If he can’t run a clean office he has no business running my country. Harper has a simple vision for Canada to ship raw materials and collect a small bit of change . Mulcair not only keeps this secretive Governments feet to the fire he also has a vision of prosperity for Canada by building refineries and sawmills for value added industries that will bring not only family supporting jobs but wealth for Canada

        • Are you sure Mulcair wants to get into the refinery and sawmill business? I know he has a penchant for unionized blacksmith shops and free government run daycare factories, but I was not aware about his big 1950`s Soviet industrialization.

          • what tells me about you is that your just a follower and what ever they say your OK with it. The USSR didn’t have unions nor has any other communist state . They are similar to what Harper believes in , business before countrymen . Yes I’m sure that value added industry is what Mulcair wants . Unions by the way gave you the country we enjoy today . Harper is but a blip on the screen