The Commons: The leader of the opposition meets the press

by Aaron Wherry

First question: What about these “not-so-nice” things the Conservatives are saying? How are you going to make sure you define yourself?

“The party already gave an indication through the media last week that they were looking at some of our options and you’re going to hear a little bit more about that in the coming week,” Thomas Mulcair said. “And I think that we’re going to start making sure that we do our job of defining things on our end. And with regard to the Conservatives’ continued behaviour, they’re now in their seventh year in power, I think that at some point the secondary school behaviour and that type of thing, a lot of Canadians get tired of it. If they can’t debate on the issues and they have to go personal, we’ll let them continue with that. We’ve got a different approach.”

The lectern already carried a sign bearing his name, his surname in bold. Salt-and-pepper beard, hair parted to the right, he smiled often, as much with his eyes as his mouth. Black backdrop and five Canadian flags. He answered without hesitation. He massaged and directed the words with his busy hands.

The theme of the day was competence. As in a desire to project “confidence and competence as public administrators.”

This, for instance, was the prescription for rallying progressive voters. ”One of the elements that we’re going to have to work on is to make sure people realize that the NDP is formed by a team of women and men capable of providing good, competent, solid public administration,” Mr. Mulcair explained. “And sometimes people have hesitated on that account. They’ve always liked our ideas, but sometimes they’ve hesitated.”

And thus the moment called for something like the discipline of power. “Now is the time for us to make sure that we stay focused on the job ahead,” he said at one point. “We’re united. We’re facing a government that’s very tough. Very well structured. And we’ve got to do the same thing. We’ve got to structure an official opposition that will bring a fight to them like they’ve never seen before.”

He spoke fast. He joked with the francophone reporters. He complimented a reporter asking about turnout in this weekend’s vote on her “smart question” and proceeded with a lecture on the intricacies of party membership rules across the provinces.

“You won’t hear me talking about putting an end to the development of the oil sands,” he offered as a way of explaining his political outlook, “but what you will hear me say is you have to internalize the environmental costs.” (He then seemed to casually ignore a Sun TV reporter’s attempt to follow up.)

Of moving forward with his team in the short term, he described a “cascading transition, but under the sign of continuity.” The House business resumes tomorrow. There won’t be any immediate changes in the seating arrangement, those will have to wait a couple weeks. Then it will be summer and that is when the real rethink would seem to be scheduled.

“When we come back in the fall, that’s when the real battle begins,” he said. “I have a strong tendency, based on my experience in Quebec City, where I was facing a strong ideologically driven government, to build a structured official opposition.”

He stressed this s-word.

“Really strong on opposition research. We’re going to do that work. And bring the tough fight for 2012-2014 to the Conservatives. And in the last year really prepared for the election in the fall.”

Battle, strong, strong, strong, tough fight.

A few more questions, an announcement that Libby Davies will remain in her deputy post, and then he was off, high-fiving a young girl as he left.




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The Commons: The leader of the opposition meets the press

  1. So essentially he wants to follow René Levesque’s path of reassuring the people that the first priority will be providing good government rather than trying to create the new Jerusalem.

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