Jack Layton never got it that good. It was as though nobody noticed or cared when he won the New Democrat leadership. It took him another year to even get a seat in parliament. Thomas Mulcair was already a Member of Parliament when he won the NDP leadership on the fourth ballot after Layton’s death and moved directly into the role of Leader of the Opposition.
Until Mulcair got the job, Bob Rae of the Liberal Party had been the de facto Leader of the Opposition. Rae had continuously gone around the NDP’s Interim Leader Nycole Turmel as though she was not there. The media went along with it because Rae knew how to frame the news clips, use effective analogies and provide the leads.
But now Mulcair was there. He also knew the ropes. And the media liked the promise of Mulcair. Most did not know him. His time in the Legislature in Quebec City had been stormy. There were concerns about his ego and his temperament. As a politician, he had never proved to be a team player.
But Stephen Harper had never played nice with his political allies either. Which one is the most determined at micro-managing things is a good question. Mulcair quit Charest’s right-wing Liberal cabinet in Quebec and went to Jack Layton’s NDP on his own volition. Whether based on principle, or pique, we do not know!
What he obviously saw was the growing dichotomy between the political left and right in Canada. His experience with the Liberal Party in Quebec had left him no option but to go to the NDP. The real enemy he perceived was Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Prime Minister Harper returned the compliment with an attack advertisement before Mulcair was settled in office.
Since moving to the Leader of the Opposition role, Mulcair’s moves have been determined and clear. He left Conservatives and Liberals alike behind when he went out to challenge the Alberta tar sands oil producers on their own turf. It was a move reminiscent of Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Policy. It made strong friends and stronger enemies.
Mulcair has made himself the current rallying point for those who wish to challenge Harper. Recent polls show that he is achieving that objective. He will hold the ground as long as the honeymoon continues.
But (and there is always a ‘but’) honeymoons end. Reality will be when the Liberal Party chooses its leadership and direction in the year ahead. Liberals now know the challenges the new leader will face. They also have to understand that in a Canada of left and right wing politics, there is no middle ground. The Liberal Party cannot leave the political left as the sole preserve of Thomas Mulcair.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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