Mulcair, in motion.

They took New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair to Saskatchewan this week. It was like bringing him home to be baptized. Here they were in Saskatchewan, the home of Tommy Douglas socialism, and Mulcair is a gruff old bugger in a suit. And both he and the suit are ‘pur laine.’

Pur laine (pure wool) is the Quebec French expression for those who trace their roots back as real Quebecers. Mulcair can trace his roots on his mother’s side back to Quebec Premier Honoré Mercier. He also holds duel citizenship in Canada and France.

But he is no Jack Layton. Layton grew up in the Quebec Anglo community of Hudson and his family left with other Anglos in the rising tide of Quebec nationalism and stricter language laws. Layton’s ragged colloquial French of his childhood with the simplistic New Democrat policies appealed to Quebecers who had tired of going nowhere with the Bloc Quebecois.

But it was a one-time thing. Mulcair thinks he can fight Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the economy and he has no credibility or background that says he knows the subject. He lacks the openness of Justin Trudeau. He lacks trust. He is neither of the working class nor of the elite. He remains an enigma in both of Canada’s solitudes.

Watching Mulcair in the House of Commons, you can see how he enjoys the attack. He sees the opportunity and the weakness of the Harper government but he fails to take the attack outside the House. He is not translating the language of the Commons into the more cutting and expanded language of the news media. He fails to reach the voters.

In Saskatchewan he told his caucus that they have two years to go before the election. That is a tight timetable for a political party to pull everything necessary together for what will be a tough three-way fight. And Mulcair is the least equipped to take on both opponents. Both he and Harper will try to trivialize Justin Trudeau but Trudeau will ignore them both while he drives at motivating and delivering the younger vote with challenges, ideas and idealism.

Jack Layton could never handle Stephen Harper and never really tried. The surprise for Mulcair will be that the Harper he dealt with in the House of Commons is not the man on message that he will face on the hustings. He will have a tough learning experience.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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