Tom Mulcair vows he will stay on as leader of NDP

As he questions the Liberal plan to bring in 25,000 refugees, Mulcair tells Evan Solomon that Canada’s Japanese internment camps are like Nazi camps
FILE -- NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to reporters in the foyer on Parliament Hill, shortly after addressing his caucus, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to reporters in the foyer on Parliament Hill, shortly after addressing his caucus, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/CP)
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to reporters in the foyer on Parliament Hill, shortly after addressing his caucus, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/CP)

Despite losing his position as the leader of the Official Opposition and dropping back to third place in the past election, Thomas Mulcair vows to stay on as the leader of the NDP and fight the next election, he told SiriusXM’s daily radio program, “Everything is Political.”

“Yes, I will stay on, I’ve got very strong support in the party,” Mulcair said. “The party membership has always been there for me and I expect them to be there in April.”

The NDP has a leadership review scheduled for April in Edmonton where delegates will vote on Mulcair’s future. As reported recently in Maclean’s, some NDP MPs and senior officials who did not want to be named believe Mulcair’s time is up and he should now help with a transition to a new leader. If Mulcair does not get at least 75 per cent of the vote in April, according to one senior source, he should step down.

Mulcair does accept that he must bear the brunt of the blame for the poor showing in the campaign. “I am the leader of the party—all responsibility is always on my shoulders,” he said. As a consequence, a review process is already under way and over 20,000 members have already filled out a survey about the election and where the party needs to go now.

Trying to put a positive spin on the election, Mulcair pointed out that the 44 seats the NDP won in 2015 is the second-best showing in NDP history. That’s not quite true. The loss is greater that the seat count reveals. As a percentage of the seats in the house of Parliament, it’s actually the third-best showing for the NDP. While Ed Broadbent led the NDP to only 43 seats in 1988, the House of Parliament had just 295 seats. In other words, the NDP won 14.5 per cent of the seats in 1988. Today, there are 338 seats, so the 44 seats the NDP won constitutes 13 per cent of the seats.

Mulcair, who is a dual citizen of Canada and France, also criticized the emergency powers the president of France Francois Hollande invoked after the recent massacre that killed 130 people. “It is [Hollande’s] War Measures Act,” Mulcair said. “I strongly disagree with that.”

In the wake of the Paris bombings and new calls for enhanced security around the world, Mulcair remains strongly opposed to Canada’s anti-terror law passed under Bill C-51. He wants the Liberal government to revoke it fully, instead of just revamping it as they have promised. “Bill C-51 was an inexcusable attack on Canadian rights and freedoms and we have not changed our view on it at all,” Mulcair said.

Mulcair told SiriusXM that the new law was comparable to the laws that allowed the Canadian government to revoke property from Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War and force them into internment camps. But he went even further, comparing the internment camps in Canada to the Nazi concentration camps in Europe. “In the 1940s, the government, a Liberal government, decided to remove the property of Japanese-Canadians and bring them into what can properly considered to be concentration camps,” Mulcair said. He believes the term “internment camps” is a “glossing” over the true reality of the situation, which he called “a stain on our history.”

Mulcair later linked the refugee crisis in Syria to the Second World War as well, calling it the worst humanitarian crisis since the 1940s. Still, he has real concerns about the Liberals’ screening plan for taking in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year and the cost of their program.

“It started off with the Liberal government putting aside $100 million for this,” Mulcair said, “but in their own estimate it turns out it will be $1.2 billion, so understandably there are concerns from mayors and premiers as to who will bear that cost.”

On Tuesday, the Liberals clarified the cost, setting the number at $678-million over six years, and announced full details of their plan, including a scaling-back of their ambitions by planning to accept 25,000 refugees by February 2016.

Recent reports that many Syrian males might be excluded from being selected to come to Canada for security reasons, also perturb Mulcair. “Both Canadian law and international law, in particular the U.N. rules, preclude you from excluding classes of people based on who they are,” Mulcair said. “We shouldn’t propagate the myth that because you are a man from one of the worst regions in the world in terms of danger to the public that you should be automatically excluded.”

Mulcair hopes proper security screening would find any potential threat, regardless of gender or age.