Trudeau and Mulcair: Compare and contrast their two speeches

Trudeau and Mulcair today: Compare and contrast

On a day where both opposition leaders deliver major speeches, the Liberals find themselves trying to light a fire while the NDP strives to ease anxieties

CORRECTS TO GATINEAU, QUE.Backed by Liberal candidates, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau makes an announcement on fair and open government in Gatineau, Que. on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

CORRECTS TO GATINEAU, QUE.Backed by Liberal candidates, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau makes an announcement on fair and open government in Gatineau, Que. on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Major speeches by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau today served up an intriguing contrast. Mulcair sought to soothe anyone worried about the sort of economic change an NDP government might bring. Trudeau tried to reignite interest, especially among progressive voters whose enthusiasm for him might be waning, by promising Liberals would usher in big change in Canadian democracy.

The two men vying to be seen as the most viable alternative to Prime Minister Stephen Harper clearly face different challenges. Mulcair is on the rise in the polls, and his aim—as he delivered an economic policy speech in Toronto at the Economic Club of Canada—seemed to be to forestall a worried reaction to his emergence as a serious challenger.

But Trudeau has slipped in recent months, after a long stretch leading the polls, creating what’s shaping up as a tight three-way race with Harper’s Conservatives and Mulcair’s NDP. His goal in a speech to assembled Parliament Hill reporters at Ottawa’s Château Laurier was to reignite interest in his leadership with at least one promise that can’t be ignored.

And both took the opportunity to shore up their policy messages with a little personal narrative, the sort that modern political strategists view as essential to connecting with voters.

Here’s a look at contrasting key moments from the two speeches.

The policy message

Trudeau’s speech framed proposals on everything from reforming the Senate and the House, to letting federal scientists speak freely, to improving access to government information. His biggest new pledge, however, was to find something new to replace Canada’s first-past-the-post election system, in which the candidate with the most votes wins the seat, no matter how many votes other contenders draw:

“We need to know that, when we cast a ballot, it counts, that when we vote, it matters. So I’m proposing that we make every vote count. We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post. As part of a national engagement process, we will ensure that electoral-reform measures—such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting and online voting—are fully and fairly studied and considered.”

Mulcair repeatedly portrayed the NDP as open to investment, preoccupied with business success, and committed to government spending control—anything but a social-democratic threat to the stable economic order. He touted support for the manufacturing sector. But the platform plank he seems to think is most likely to reassure anyone anxious about his party’s economic bent is a small-business tax break:

“To compete and win, Canada needs a strong and thriving middle class. A stronger middle class means a stronger Canada . . . We have to provide immediate and permanent help to some of the hardest-working job creators in our economy, Canada’s small-business owners, the backbone of local communities and the creators of 80 per cent of all new jobs in this great country of ours. That’s why my plan starts by cutting the small-business tax rate from 11 per cent to nine per cent, a near 20 per cent reduction.”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to the Economic Club of Toronto on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. In his visit to Toronto, the NDP leader emphasized the record New Democrat governments have when it comes to balanced budgets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to the Economic Club of Toronto on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press)

The personal narrative

There can be no doubt that early enthusiasm for Trudeau’s leadership of the Liberal Party was jump-started by nostalgia in some quarters for his father’s long tenure as prime minister. Justin Trudeau hasn’t shied from invoking Pierre Trudeau’s name. Today, he did it for a precise tactical reason, asserting that Harper’s politics is less civil, perhaps even less civilized, than the style of his father’s time:

“It wasn’t like that before. I know that from experience. All I have to do is think back to my own father. As prime minister, he could be tough, even hard-nosed. I’ll tell you a secret: He didn’t actually just say ‘fuddle duddle.’ But to use an example from my father’s day, ministers didn’t attack Supreme Court justices, just to raise money and whip up support. That would have been unthinkable. Under Stephen Harper, it’s just another day at the office.”

Unlike Trudeau, Mulcair arrived as leader of a federal party with no famous personal story to fix his persona in the Canadian public’s imagination. Starting early this year, his strategists urged him to make it a habit to tell a bit of his family story every time he speaks. Today was no exception. And it’s no coincidence that the capsule version Mulcair offers contrasts sharply with Trudeau’s story, both in terms of Mulcair’s unglamorous upbringing and his resumé of Quebec experience.

“My beliefs and values stem from my upbringing. My family story is that of millions of Canadian families. Growing up the second-oldest of 10 kids, we had to work for everything we had. It wasn’t easy. We worked hard, played by the rules and lived within our means. We learned the importance of looking out for one another, sticking together during good times and bad. These are the values that guided me throughout my 35 years of public life, and my time as a cabinet minister in the government of Quebec.”

So there is the contrast: Trudeau emphasizing big change in how Canadians elect governments, Mulcair calmly stressing support for the private sector; Trudeau tactically playing off his storied political name, Mulcair mythologizing his big-family, middle-class background. Both took aim at Harper today, too. But, as a tight three-way race to the Oct. 19 election picks up steam, jostling between the opposition parties is growing at least as interesting as their assaults on the party in power.


Trudeau and Mulcair today: Compare and contrast

  1. There is no ‘tight three-way race’. No one is even paying attention

    We are months from the official election…..and everyone is still lined up at the starting gate….which only varies a few points from day to day.

    The only possible trend anyone can see is to massive change….and none of the parties are offering that.

  2. Another snarky author, Take a crack at Trudeau for his name and turn Tom Mulcair into some crusader of the poor people, the guy lived off the taxpayers tough for his paycheck all his life and is also nothing more than an opportunist. He is becoming more arrogant and comes as flippant and angry man, that will be his downfall. He also stole 2.7 million from the taxpayers to pay for outback satellite offices and as of today, one of his stance MPs M Leslie decided it was easier to take a first class flight out to Alberta to meet the party faithful, than the, you know, the lower class. Tom Mulcair is a fake and arrogant and nasty with a separatist wing in his party.

    • And Harper with his neoconderthals have stolen countless millions of taxpayers’ dollars year after year to pay for hyper-partisan “informational” ads. Why aren’t you complaining about that?

      • I just love that current ad against Trudeau -“Maybe not forever but, for now, he’s not ready.” Kind
        of a nice precis for an inept candidate. What scares me the most about Justin is that, while his father was indeed charismatic, Pierre was the closest thing to a far left, socialist
        leader that Canada has ever seen. He admired Marx, studied Marxism, and tried to install it’s premise in Canada. Let’s hope Justin is not only lacking his father’s charisma but also that destructive bent.

      • I am in agreement with you about Harper, but does it make it right for Mulcair to do the same thing, no. You know what Mulcairs biggest weakness is, tough questioning, the toughest questions the media asks Mulcair, is about Harper and Trudeau. Just watch if the media ever go after Mulcair about the BOIE and the 2.7 million with 2 of their own NDP members on the same board with only one liberal, and then has the gonads to say the BOIE is full of liberal and cons hacks, what a crock, his party has more influence in the BOIE than the liberals, but media won’t let the facts get in the way of the truth. Just watch with his hands his hands when asked a tough question, and then watch his head weave back and forth like Nixon used to do, trying to defend it, then his eyes start to bulge. When I saw him on Global the weekend with Tom Clark, he was at his nattiness, the old if it doesn’t agree with you tear it down. I don’t want a multiple personality running the country, we already got one of them.

  3. Whether it’s the tight race or the country’s strong and growing desire for change, love that something is bringing out substantive and promising policy proposals. All parties have put forth serious and differentiating policy ideas. These ain’t just window dressing and that can only be great for democracy.

    I’m particularly excited about ditching the heinous “first past the post” system. I’ve now heard at least 2 parties proposing something on this (Greens and Libs). Keep the substantive ideas coming.

  4. I’m all for junking FPTP – it’s moronic with more than 2 parties – ranked (preferential) ballots FTW.

    Ranked ballots fix the problem of “wasted votes” as happens in a FPTP system. Ranked ballots also have the advantage of being an evolutionary change to the way we now vote as opposed to a revolutionary change such as PR.

    Ranked ballots is my system of choice as it fixes the glaring problem of “wasted votes”, and it still often results in majority governments that are capable of taking bold (and, yes, sometimes unpopular) initiatives. Note that ranked ballots also make strategic voting unnecessary, so throwing out a government that is truly unpopular becomes significantly easier. For example, if (and this is a big ‘if’) the LPC and the NDP are indeed the 1st and 2nd (not necessarily in that order) choice of about 60% of voters, the CPC would not have won a single election in the last 10 years.

    My main issue with MMP is that it seems to retain FPTP as the system for the direct election of MPs. FPTP makes absolutely no sense whatsoever when there are more than 2 main contending parties as is the case in Canada.

    MPs should be elected with the support of at least 50%+1 of electors – that’s why ranked ballots should be employed, either in totality as suggested by Trudeau in the past, or incorporated into MMP.

    • I disagree. The so-called “wasted-vote” argument is specious. You get one vote for your choice and that’s the way it should be. Why should you get another second or third choice. This simply shows how lame-brained Trudeau II is. It is the secondary parties (whom the public don’t want that benefit from alternate systems) . Other systems were turned down in BC recently. The most likely scenario is that tiny parties – such as the Greens proliferate and there can be a constant juggling of disparate interests. If the public has turned against a party long in power it will show as it did in Alberta.

      Also all this stuff months before the election makes uis trend toward the US and their perennial campaigning.

      • Well, we certainly can’t expect a democracy of 35 million people to have to juggle disparate interests. Better that some minority of voters achieves 100% of power and we pretend it’s democratic whether or not countless voters every get representation in their lifetime, let alone any given Parliament.

  5. A brain dead schmuck and a Commie = Harper Majority.

    • Sure Harper is happy to socialize the costs and risks of the the oil & gas industry, and he’s brought us the surveillance state. But it’s still a bit of a stretch to call him a ‘commie’.

  6. I do not trust either of them