Mulcair Selfie

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There’s something to be said for campaigning the old-fashioned way. You know, arguing your case in front of a big crowd and persuading the people there you’re right, instead of cynically manipulating the electorate.

It seems to me that’s mainly what New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair succeeded at doing last night in Edmonton — not that there was much persuading to be done, since it was a partisan crowd of 1,500 or so that turned up at the Shaw Conference Centre, cheered lustily and mobbed the leader for selfies when the speechifying was done.

Other than the odd watchful Conservative operative lurking on the fringes, most of the people there were inclined to agree with Mulcair’s arguments long before he was escorted through the door by the traditional phalanx of Mounties and backward-walking television camera crews.

Mulcair’s speech was skillfully done, and touched however briefly on almost every point in the NDP platform. It was competently delivered with the help of a teleprompter and an eye to the boundaries of the message box. It didn’t bring a lump to my throat or a tear to my eye as Jack Layton’s did back in 2011, and it didn’t leave me stirred but not shaken like that night in May I realized Rachel Notley was going to be premier of Alberta. But so what?

After a decade of Stephen Harper as the Great Helmsman of this nation, leading us ever closer to the reef, I’m not sure emotion is what we need around here any more. Rather, what’s called for is hard noses and a flinty-eyed gaze at who is most likely to do the job of skidding the Conservatives and getting this country back on track.

I think Mulcair is up to this task, which is why I voted for him in the first place back in 2012. I like him best when his own eyes are properly flinty — which they were at least some of the time last night. He smiled a lot too, as I guess his handlers must insist.

Anyway, last night he promised to launch a national inquiry into the tragedy of missing and murdered Aboriginal women within 100 days of forming a government, put an end to the excuse making and pull our weight solving the world’s refugee crisis, re-establish an independent Canadian foreign policy and repeal Bill C-51. What’s now required is the simple recognition that these are all things we had better get on with for the sake of our country before it’s too late.

Mulcair’s “Rally for Change in Edmonton,” with the crowd warmed up by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman reminding that we’ve seen Orange Waves around here before, was the second rally for change in this town in 24 hours. On Wednesday, Justin Trudeau held a “Rally for Real Change in Edmonton,” attended by 1,000 or so people. Sorry, I missed it. But that does tell you something about the zeitgeist, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, with the wheels on his electoral bus getting wobbly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has opted to hire the “Wizard of Oz,” Australian wedge-meister Lynton Crosby, to get the rickety effort pointing all its wheels in the same direction again, even if that means blood on the floor of the Conservative war room. That presumably means we’ll be seeing nothing but electoral manipulation from the Conservatives until October 19.

This is not good news if you’re one of those folks who believes politics should be about information, debate and persuasion, but it was always where the Harper Conservatives were bound to end up if the polls went south on them. The message from the CPC from here on in is likely to be, “Pay no attention to that man behind the blue curtain.”

So brace yourself for things to get nasty when Crosby starts to slice up the Canadian personality pie into wedges of immigration, refugees, race and religion.

We’ll know soon enough if Canadians speak the Wizard’s language when he smiles and hands us that particular unappetizing Vegemite sandwich, or if, as the greatest American leader, Abraham Lincoln, put it, we’ll be touched by the better angels of our nature.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog,

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David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...