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Thomas Mulcair: An NDP leader who passes the Ralph Klein beer test and Tory fear test

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NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair

Apparently it took the Conservative Party slime machine less than five minutes yesterday evening to start going after just-elected New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair in an ugly email blast.

The first Conservative email attacking Mulcair started going out while he was still on the stage in Toronto celebrating his victorious ascent to the leadership of Canada's Official Opposition.

Even the Conservative Globe and Mail characterized the attack as "vicious," quoting Conservative Party spokesman Fred DeLorey telling credulous Tory supporters that the new NDP leader is "an opportunist whose high tax agenda, blind ambition and divisive personality would put Canadian families and their jobs at risk."

Given the former Reform Party's propensity for fear-mongering and reactive negativity, it's mildly surprising that it took them that long -- assuming, of course, that it was just happenstance or mischievous children and not one of the Conservatives' army of robocallers and monkey-wrenchers who mucked up the NDP’s voting system earlier in the day.

Whatever. Get used to it. The misnamed Conservatives are the Tea Party of Canada whose shady and vicious scorched earth campaign techniques are inspired and taught by their Republican cronies south of the Medicine Line.

The speed and nasty tone of tonight's Conservative email is proof that, whatever his pluses and minuses seemed as a potential leader, the NDP chose a replacement for Jack Layton who has already earned our unlikable prime minister's fear. Well, Stephen Harper should be afraid. By the time this is over, I predict, we'll all be calling the Conservatives the Robocall Party of Canada!

We can also expect the Conservative media (which nowadays is pretty well all of it) to be quick off the mark in assailing Mulcair, although its tone is likely to be marginally more polite (except at Sun Media, of course). It will try to sow discord within NDP ranks now that the party's members have made a choice after a long and exhausting campaign.

Indeed, the same Globe story tried to dismiss Mulcair as ill-humoured, hard to warm to and having (horrors!) a difficult relationship with the media.

Really? The Toronto Star came a little closer to the reality of the new NDP leader's personality when its reporter observed in a feature on how the Mulcair team won the leadership that "Mulcair is, organizers knew, a guy people could have a beer with, despite all those headlines of a difficult personality to the contrary."

I can vouch for the truth of this statement, as a matter of fact, having had a beer with him.

Indeed, and this is meant as a compliment, Mulcair's relationship with voters in many ways reminds me of that of former Alberta premier Ralph Klein -- who as readers of this blog will know, could be ill-humoured and whose relationship with the press at times was fraught. Nevertheless, large numbers of voters seemed to think he would be a great guy with whom to have a beer -- a conclusion that did him no harm, as observers of the Alberta political scene will recall.

As an Alberta politician himself, a bloodless ideologue like the unappealing Harper presumably understands very well the kind of danger a living, breathing, human politician like Mulcair presents to him.

With a provincial election expected to be called as early as tomorrow, Albertans may have an opportunity to see a little more of Mulcair and experience the positive things he shares in common with the most popular Alberta politician of a generation.

Certainly we hope Mulcair will include some stopovers in Alberta in his busy schedule of the weeks ahead to lend his undeniable star power to the campaigns of some of our provincial New Democrats.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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