The marching music of M’sieur Mulcair.

Leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party Thomas Mulcair faces a fascinating challenge in the coming year. He is attempting to choose the right march music for his election band to play. There are three genres from which he can choose: He could select Ragtime of the party’s beginnings as the socialists of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). He personally might lean more to the era of Rock and Roll. And then he might adapt to crossover with today’s pop music.

It is to be assumed that Mr. Mulcair will reject the early Ragtime and swing tunes of socialism. The implied strife and revolution of socialism has been rejected in Canada over the years and those who fought for social justice in those early times were more often honoured after but never in their day.

There was a considerable uplift in the tunes of the Rock and Roll era as unions dominated the former CCF, renaming it as the New Democratic Party. While the earlier stridency for social justice still prevailed in the party, the union support muted the message to fit with the self-serving mantra of union solidarity. The satisfaction of the unions tended to stifle the social justice message.

But it is in the confusion of crossover in today’s pop music that presents Mr. Mulcair with his greatest challenge. In attempting to paper the past with the social democrat label, he is conflicted with the crowded central right of the political spectrum.

In Ontario recently we saw the provincial New Democrats go down in flames because they offered no alternative to the ruling Liberals. They were trapped on the political right of a supposedly left budget. And yet it was just a weak attempt at half measures designed to force an election.

So what is Mr. Mulcair to do? Is he fish or fowl? Here he has proved his ability in prosecuting the role of being the Official Opposition in parliament. Or has he left his party behind? Is Thomas Mulcair even a socialist? Is he a union supporter? Is he a social democrat? Or is he a Quebec Liberal?

And before you answer any of those questions, maybe you should look at his Quebec caucus of accidents. In the collapse of the Bloc Québécois in 2011, many Quebec voters parked their votes with the so-called Orange Wave. It was not much of a wave and more of an undertow. The vote gave the finger to the Conservatives and the Liberals, demolished the Bloc and threw the New Democrats into an imbalance with serious questions about its future in Canadian politics.

Mr. Mulcair needs to pick his party’s marching music. There is little time left.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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