Here is a translation of a column about Mulcair and the NDP from Le Journal de Montreal.
By Jean-Jacques Samson
Le Journal de Montréal
October 18, 2011
Thomas Mulcair is not a pure-blood socialist. That is his main handicap in the race for the NDP leadership.
Faith in socialist doctrine is as important to the NDP as faith in Québec independence may be to the Parti Québécois.
Mulcair landed in the NDP in 2007 after leaving the Québec Liberal Party frustrated by Jean Charest’s decision a year earlier to pull him from the Ministry of Environment.
However, he fully endorsed the PLQ’s 2003 platform which set-out to re-engineer the apparatus of government to reduce its size, commit fully to public-private partnerships (P3s), make more room for private health, etc. Such policies are blasphemy to orthodox New Democrats.
The Extreme Centre
Since its founding, the NDP has remained a marginal option at the federal level in Canada, although several provincial branches have since seized power.
In the current race, NDP apparatchik Brian Topp is the guardian of the orthodox programme. He has always been a New Democrat. No one in the country outside party circles knows him, but socialist hardliners are assured that he will not engage in revisionism.
The NDP will never become an appealing alternative to the Harper government, though, if it does not reorient itself. How many Canadians want a government under the thumb of the country’s most powerful unions, ready to boost social spending and thus increasing debt and taxes?
People vote for the “extreme centre”, as Robert Bourassa would say.
The Instinct of the Fox
What Mulcair has to offer NDP supporters is his background as a formidable parliamentarian. The great-great-grandson of former Liberal premier Honoré Mercier is one of the most effective opposition members I have seen in the National Assembly of Québec. He aims for the jugular. He was the member most feared and hated by PQ cabinet ministers between 1994 and 2003.
Brian Topp has never been elected anywhere; he has no experience playing the parliamentary game, nor working with the media.
Mulcair is also an expert in realpolitik. He does not exclusively promote social political philosophy as did David Lewis, Ed Broadbent and Jack Layton at the helm of the NDP. Mulcair wants to win power. He would therefore ensure that the platform does not frighten too high a percentage of voters.
The Québec Vote
Mulcair already has a disadvantage at the start line because Québec—where there is no provincial NDP branch—is home to only 3% of NDP members country-wide.
This leadership race, however, is a veritable date with history for the NDP. From third-party status, it became the Official Opposition in the House of Commons because of Québec, which overwhelmingly supported the NDP last May. If members turn their nose up at Mulcair, they would discourage their fiercest parliamentarian and seriously endanger the support obtained last spring to everyone’s surprise.
In short, New Democrats will have to choose between hard-line socialism and moderation; between remaining a fringe party or seriously seeking-out the power of government by backing a political fox this time, rather than another good Ed or “bon Jack”.