The Leader of the Official Opposition has the next election on his mind. Invited to address the BC Federation of Labour convention on Monday, Tom Mulcair came early for a weekend visit to British Columbia, a key battleground where the NDP must make a strong showing if it hopes to form a government.
On Saturday night Mulcair spoke at a fundraising cocktail reception for Vancouver-area riding associations, sponsored by the MP for Burnaby-Douglas, Kennedy Stewart.
Stewart introduced Mulcair as a tough debater who makes the prime minister squirm: so much so that Stephen Harper is avoiding attending the House of Commons for question period.
Stewart also talked about a Mulcair moved to tears hearing Chief Theresa Spence speak about the conditions in her community of Attawapiskat that had led her to begin a hunger strike.
Mulcair may have been relaxed making his remarks to the several hundred attendees who paid $100 (early bird) or $150 for canapés, a chance to speak to the NDP leader, and to support the party, but he was dead serious about his intentions.
As leader of the opposition he was charged with critiquing the government for its misdeeds, wrong-headed policies, and for exposing corrupt practices, said Mulcair, but his other role was to assemble a government-in-waiting, and it was what he wanted party members to hear about.
"The NDP continues to lead all other parties in Quebec polling," said Mulcair, "though you won't have read that in the papers."
Mulcair was happy to report that independent MP Maria Mourani, expelled from the Bloc Québécois caucus a year ago for her opposition to the Quebec PQ governments' proposed Charter of Values, had taken out membership in the NDP. Our commitment to progressive values was decisive, Mulcair noted, and Mourani has also renounced her commitment to sovereignty.
Mulcair has laid out his views on how Canada must adopt a sustainable approach to exploiting natural resources, especially energy, or risk being shut out of foreign markets.
Mulcair pointed out that Harper has not been able to complete one pipeline project in almost 10 years in office, yet he still does not understand that environmental and social criteria matter as much as the projected profits.
While the Conservatives cannot deliver promised replacement jets or Canadian grain to overseas markets or even deliver the mail, said Mulcair, the NDP has an experienced team committed to taking public administration seriously.
The media may be interested in the celebrity leadership of Justin Trudeau, he added, but come election time Canadians will be looking to see who would make the best prime minister.
The next election will be in 2015, said Mulcair, and the number 15 was a useful symbol for him. For the Conservatives, he said, 15 stands for less 15 per cent, the wage paid temporary foreign workers, 15 per cent less than the Canadian wage for the same job, an amount designed to drive down wages for Canadians workers.
For the NDP, Mulcair said, 15 means $15 an hour, the federal minimum wage his party proposes to adopt.
Mulcair pointed out that for the Conservatives, 15 stands for the wealthy 15 per cent of the population that will benefit from the income-splitting plan announced by the prime minister as part of his family tax cut proposals.
For the NDP, said Mulcair, 15 stands for 15 dollars a day, the maximum amount parents would pay for child care in the national plan his party would bring in if elected.
The Mulcair visit included a Saturday seminar in Burnaby with childcare specialists to discuss the NDP proposed childcare program, one that would include opting out with compensation for Quebec, and that would create enough jobs and income that it would be self-financing.
Mulcair took time to remind his audience that the Liberals had proposed a childcare program on several occasions, beginning in 1993 with the first Chrétien Red Book of electoral promises, and never delivered.
Even Stephen Harper had talked about creating child care back in 2006 said Mulcair, but the NDP would be the only party to deliver change.
For Mulcair, those Canadians looking to get rid of Stephen Harper need look no further than the NDP. The Liberals, he said, "flash left at election time, then turn right when they hold power."
Duncan Cameron is the president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.
Photo: Patrick Imbeau/flickr
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