The prepared text of Thomas Mulcair’s speech to the NDP caucus this afternoon.
Leadership on the Side of Canadians
Thank you very much.
What energy in this room.
It’s great to be back in Ottawa with our team, the New Democratic team, the best team in Canadian politics.
I can tell you we’ve had a busy and productive week.
I was proud to sit down with the NDP Premiers and party leaders from across the country to discuss the challenges ahead.
Over the past few days we’ve been looking at how to build on our successes in 2012… and how to continue our momentum into 2013.
And of course—as always—we’re continuing to lay the groundwork for the next election.
This is a pivotal session in the life of this Parliament.
In May, the Conservatives will begin the third year of their disastrous majority reign.
So it becomes all the more important for us to begin preparations to throw them out in 2015.
New Democrats are focused, we’re energized and we’re united.
We’re going to continue to hold Stephen Harper accountable and we’re going to fight for a fairer, greener, more prosperous Canada for all, because that’s what 4.5 million Canadians sent us here to do.
Since becoming Opposition leader 10 months ago, I’ve had the privilege of visiting every province in this country.
I made it a priority of mine because I felt that no leader could claim to represent Canadians without meeting with them in their communities.
Without listening to their hopes and understanding their challenges.
I’ve been throughout BC—alongside NDP MPs who continue to be a strong voice for that province—MPs like Murray Rankin.
I’ve toured Atlantic Canada with NDP leaders who are building our party’s next electoral breakthroughs at the provincial level.
I’ve toured my home province with some of our fantastic MPs there, who are setting down deep roots throughout Quebec.
I’ve met with local mayors, as well as with labour and business leaders all across Southern Ontario.
I’ve met oil sands workers in Fort McMurray, government officials in Winnipeg and university students in Regina.
And nearly everywhere I go, I hear the same sentiment from ordinary Canadians.
Simply put, the choices Mr. Harper’s Conservatives are making on a whole range of issues are exactly the opposite of what Canadians want from their government.
It’s no wonder Canadians feel their voice is not being heard.
It’s no wonder they feel their federal government is failing them.
The fact is, Canada remains—at its heart—a progressive country.
We are a country that understands we are all better off when we take care of one another—when we lift each other up.
These values are reflected in the institutions that define us and unite us.
Universal public health care to help the sick, Old Age Security to protect the elderly, Employment Insurance to give each other a hand when we need it most.
Yet in the past year alone, Mr. Harper has taken an axe to these institutions.
He’s forced unemployed Canadians to take a 30 per cent pay cut, or risk being kicked off EI.
He’s told our seniors they’ll have to work two years longer before they can retire.
He’s told the provinces he plans to slash $36-billion in health care funding.
Mr. Harper is under the impression that—now that he has a majority government—he no longer has to listen to the overwhelming majority of Canadians who oppose these actions.
Why else would he turn his back on public sentiment so clearly opposed to the takeover of our natural resources by a foreign state?
Why else would he remove the protection of our lakes and rivers and give big polluters carte blanche, instead of enforcing our environmental laws and forcing polluters to pay for the harm they cause?
And why else would he lecture Canadians about tightening their own belts while turning the largest military procurement in our history into a complete and utter fiasco?
Here in Ottawa, we have a government that has lost sight of what Canadians expect, and lost interest in what Canadians want.
We have a government whose priorities include its political base―and well-connected insiders―but no one else.
We have a government mired in scandal, ethical lapses and blatant mismanagement.
Well I have a message for the Prime Minister today:
Canadians are tired of taking a back seat and they’re tired of being ignored.
If you’re not willing to put the public interest first—come 2015—New Democrats are ready to replace your government… and we’ll do just that.
There was a time in this country when our leaders proposed ideas that engaged and inspired Canadians.
When we looked at ourselves and envisioned not only what we could become as a nation… but how we could get there, together.
Unfortunately, those days are becoming a distant memory.
Today in Ottawa we face a Prime Minister whose vision isn’t based on what we can achieve—but on what we cannot.
We live in an age of unparalleled innovation.
We have greater human potential than ever before, and a greater capacity to put that potential to work.
But our leaders tell us we have to accept less. That our children have to accept less.
In Mr. Harper’s Canada, the vision of the country we once knew—where we take care of one another—is being replaced by a vision where we’re left to fend for ourselves.
Mr. Harper’s Canada is not the Canada we inherited from our parents, and it’s not the Canada we should leave to our children.
Our country today faces levels of income inequality not seen since the Great Depression… and the middle class is struggling like never before.
We’ve lost the balanced economy that has propelled growth and created skilled jobs since the Second World War.
Canadians are taking on record debt, the cost of living is rising and middle class wages are declining.
How can we accept that—in one of the richest countries in the world—a quarter of a million seniors live in poverty, 800,000 children go to school hungry and a generation of First Nations youth are growing up without even the basic necessities, and without hope.
Economic, social and environmental sustainability is the central issue of our time… and we will be judged by what we leave to future generations.
The truth is, we face the stark reality of being the first generation to leave less to our children than what we inherited from our parents.
I’ve met with too many students who are graduating with more debt, fewer job opportunities and a more endangered environment.
I’ve met with too many parents who’ve worked so hard for their children, only to watch the next generation struggle.
Yet instead of tackling these challenges head on, Mr. Harper’s government is serving up tired Conservative slogans.
Instead of leading this country, Mr. Harper’s arrogant, yet incompetent government is more interested in dividing it for short-term political gain.
Pitting Canadian against Canadian and region against region may be Mr. Harper’s battle lines… but they certainly aren’t mine.
I believe—and New Democrats believe—that there is more to unite us than there is to divide us.
Whether you live in Cold Lake, Alberta or in Lac St. Jean, our fate as Canadians is interconnected.
And the solution to our challenges isn’t to accept less from each other, it’s to demand more from our leaders.
It’s time to rise above the cynicism that Mr. Harper relies on… and it’s time to get this country working again.
Not just for the well-connected few, but for each and every one of us.
In 2013, Canadians will see the New Democratic Party lay out a series of practical solutions to support our positive, optimistic vision for Canada.
Solutions that put the public interest ahead of well-connected interests—while staying true to who we are as a country.
Solutions that will take care of our responsibilities today, but also build for the future.
That work has been front and centre at our caucus meetings this week… as well as at my meetings with New Democratic leaders from across the country.
And it will be front and centre again in April, when thousands of New Democrats gather in Montreal for our national convention.
Together, we will continue to lay the groundwork for 2015. That means reaching out to communities right across this country.
We’re going to take on Mr. Harper’s Conservatives in every region and in every riding in Canada.
And in Parliament, we will continue to hold Mr. Harper accountable.
Our goal is simple: give Canadians a clear choice when they go to the polls in 2015.
A choice between their government that sells out our natural resources to a foreign state, and a government that will create a balanced, sustainable 21st century economy with good jobs here at home.
Between their government that lets our students drown in debt while our seniors struggle in poverty, and a government that will ensure no one is left behind.
Between their government that doesn’t follow through on its commitments to First Nations, and a government that will respect them on a nation-to-nation basis.
Between their government that wants us to settle for less, and a government that believes we can strive for more.
Our party has the vision to unite progressives of every stripe under the NDP banner.
And we have the vision to unite Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Canadians have given us an historic opportunity by electing the first ever NDP Official Opposition… and the first federalist majority in Quebec in more than two decades.
We’ve shown—and we will continue to show—that we are up to the task.
Together, we can build the Canada of our dreams… where no one is left behind.
And together, we can build a better world.