The long hot summer of M. Mulcair.

It has been a tough summer for our parliament’s Leader of the Opposition. Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats has been leading from the rear. We have seen more of some of the party’s spokespeople than we have seen of its national leader. It has been a time of Canadians coming to the realization that of the two national party leaders from Quebec only one is a natural leader. And it is not Mulcair.

While the House of Commons was sitting, Mulcair could use his official opposition position to keep the guns blazing over the Senate woes. It was a safe subject for the New Democrats as they carry no brief for a body that has no New Democrat Senators. The only problem was that he had a much smaller audience after Parliament recessed for the summer. It is tough time to keep issues alive and to find a receptive media audience.

It was even more frustrating when the leader of the third party took the marijuana issue away from the NDP. Justin Trudeau was doing barbeques and town halls for the summer and he spiced up his dialogue with the promise to legalize and control marijuana. Here it was an NDP issue all along and all Mulcair could do was complain and mutter.

Mulcair has been counting on being able to refresh and renew the attack on the Senate when the House was to resume in September. He was obviously less than pleased when Harper once again prorogued Parliament to extend his holiday into late October. Harper is taking an inordinately long stretch to write a new throne speech.

But Mulcair’s more serious problem is Quebec Premier Pauline Marois. As a former Quebec Liberal Cabinet Minister, Mulcair is expected to speak out about Marois’ proposed legislation against wearing religious symbols by people paid by the province. If he speaks out against Marois’ legislation, it could cost him the support of many of the former Bloc Québécois who voted NDP last time and could also cost him more than 50 seats in Quebec in the next federal election.

Of course, he could keep quiet about the Marois legislation and anger fair-minded NDP voters in the rest of Canada. He is stuck between a rock and Justin Trudeau. Quebecers expect Trudeau to oppose any such draconian legislation and it will not change the level of support he is building across the province.

Mulcair might as well enjoy the perquisites of being Leader of the Official Opposition while he can. His time will be limited unless he can find a way to come out of the 2015 election ahead of the Conservatives.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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