On the existence of an NDP base

This column, a couple of weeks ago, posed a question about Thomas Mulcair’s ability to appeal to a broad segment of the population with an environmentalist, oil-sands-skeptical, protectionist-on-trade message. “To beat Harper, he needs issues that can rally active and broad support,” I wrote at the end. “I’ll offer no predictions, but whatever happens in Montreal on April 22 will tell much of the tale.”

What happened in Montreal was a great big rally for Earth Day whose messaging was, in part, overtly anti-oil-sands. And it seems to have been a hit. Apparently something like a quarter of a million people marched in lousy weather.

It would caricature the rally to depict it as, specifically, an NDP triumph. Mulcair and much of his caucus took part, but so did Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois, and Daniel Paillé, who is reputed to be the leader of something called the Bloc Québécois. And no news acoount I’ve seen from the rally quotes Mulcair or anyone else from the NDP.

So you can’t directly translate this crowd into sustained or renewed support for the NDP. But my original point, I think, still holds: if our politics is going to polarize, increasingly, on questions of reource development vs. the environment, of prosperity vs. equity, then Mulcair is sunk if there is not even an engaged, emotive, base of any significant size on his side of those debates. But there is such a base. He’s not sunk.