Posts Tagged ‘Mulcair

Why NDP Leader’s Oil Sands Attack Is Smart Political Strategy

- June 20th, 2012

Mulcair-in-Commons

Let’s get a couple of things straight right off the bat:

 

1. I used the word”attack” intentionally. Although Thomas Mulcair and the NDP insist they are not against the Alberta oil sands themselves (just the way the Harper government currently allows them to be operated), Mulcair’s stance is very much an attack on the status quo of the oil sands.

 

2. This piece is not about the rights and wrongs of oil sands development. Don’t come at me with long screeds on how the oil sands are the economic engine of Canada or how Big Oil and a lapdog federal government are engaging in environmental vandalism: It just doesn’t matter in this context. Oh, those issues will be debated ad naseum in the next three years, but right now I’m talking solely about whether or not it is GOOD POLITICAL STRATEGY for the NDP to attack the Alberta oil sands.

It is. And here’s why:

 

Oil-sands-Syncrude_plant

A few relatively mild comments on CBC radio last month made New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair the Most Dangerous Man in Canada™ (for a while anyway, until Luka Magnotta became a household name).

 

Mulcair must be doing something right to arouse that much clamourous indignation.

 

From a long-term strategic perspective, he is. Mulcair has picked a battleground and intends to push. The game is on.

 

That recent flurry of ruffled feathers and regional hubris was just a sideshow, but a bit of the underbrush needs to be cut back before we can clearly see what this situation will mean when it really counts — at the next federal election (tentatively scheduled Oct. 19, 2015).

 

Let’s let the CBC’s Rex Murphy lead the charge for a while. Here are a few things Murphy has had to say about Mulcair in heated commentaries last month:

 

“It is the most divisive debut of any opposition leader I can recall and potentially very dangerous to Confederation.”

 

and

 

“These remarks have been his biggest mistake since becoming national leader.”

 

and

 

“This game of playing one part of the country against another — which effectively is what Mr. Mulcair’s statements do — is of no value to anyone.”

 

and

 

“(A) deliberate, antagonizing and quarrelsome bent toward a whole section of the country … Blaming a prosperous region for the temporary weakness of Central Canada is willful shortsightedness.”

 

Joining Rex Murphy in the attack on Mulcair were (not surprisingly) members the Harper government and (perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not) Liberal Interim Leader Bob Rae, who accused Mulcair of having double standards over issues that affect Quebec and Western Canada.

 

The premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. piled on, appearing to deliberately misinterpret Mulcair’s direct challenge to the prime minister to take great offence on various levels of personal, provincial and regional pride.

 

What beastly, nation-destroying things did Thomas Mulcair actually say to warrant this volcano of vitriol and venom?

 

Not much, actually, and nothing he hasn’t been saying for years.

 

His basic argument was that he wants the Harper government to enforce long-standing laws it is sworn to uphold, for the good of the people of Canada now and in the future.

 

Really. That was the central thesis of his remarks to interviewer Evan Solomon which ran on CBC Radio’s The House on Saturday morning, May 5.

 

Here’s a link to the interview  (the whole programme, actually) if you’d like to hear exactly what was said for yourself. The Mulcair interview starts at the 9:00 mark and goes to 17:30.

 

Solomon brought up “the Dutch disease” issue, noting that Conservatives were attacking Mulcair for mentioning it in an article published in the March 2012 issue of the journal Policy Options.

 

The discussion swayed into the Alberta oil sands around the 12-minute mark when Mulcair said, “The point I’m making is not that we should be against development  of the oil sands, but it has to be sustainable development.”

 

And then he launched into an attack on the Harper government for not enforcing Canadian environmental protection laws in regard to the oil sands and hammered on a “Polluter Pay, User Pay” theme.

 

“The way we are exploiting and developing the oil sands is causing an imbalance in our economy,” Mulcair said.

 

The core thesis was that Big Oil should be paying more now to cover the future costs of Alberta oil sands cleanup and that, because the oil industry is not paying a realistic price to extract and sell that oil, the Canadian dollar is artificially inflated, which in turn has a negative impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector’s ability to sell our goods abroad.

 

Ignoring the current imbroglio and the rights and wrongs of various positions as they exist in June 2012 (because they will be long forgotten by the time the next federal election rolls around in October 2015), here’s an analysis of why Mulcair has picked a high-grade battle issue from a strictly pragmatic, real-politik strategic perspective:

 

1.  This is an issue with staying power and growth potential.

 

As Mulcair told the Globe and Mail during the May hubbub:

 

“You realize that it’s not a three-day debate, it’s not a three-week debate, it’s not a three-month debate, it’s a three-year debate … We’ll just keep coming back with what the real issue is. The real issue is polluter pay. People in Alberta believe that polluters should pay. People in Saskatchewan believe that polluters should pay. People in B.C. believe that polluters should pay. It’s a consistent thing across Canada.”

 

And this is what he told Tom Clark of Global News around the same time:

 

“This is a fight we’ve been looking for. We see this as a defining element of the next election campaign in Canada.”

 

Mulcair may be under attack right now, but his position is one that will stand up to scrutiny — not against oil sands development, just Tory mismanagement and lack of oversight — and one that can grow stronger with time.

 

2. Mulcair is focused and he’s not going off-message.

 

“My fight is with Stephen Harper’s Conservatives,” Mulcair told Global News. “So when some of them started suggesting I was anti-Western Canadian, which, of course, I’ve never even talked about, my reaction was, ‘Look — let me deal with the person who’s responsible for the problem I’m describing.”

 

“We’re leaving the largest ecological, economic and social debt in our history in the backpacks of young people and we’re telling them they’ll pay for it,” he told CTV News. “We’re going to be the first generation in Canadian history to leave less to the next generation than what we ourselves received if we continue this way.”

 

3. Mulcair really doesn’t care how his message plays in Alberta or Saskatchewan — it’s all about Quebec and Ontario … and B.C.

 

He’s making nicey-nice with the Western premiers right now, but that’s just for show and doesn’t matter — except for B.C. where Liberal Premier Christy Clark will be replaced by a majority NDP government on May 14, 2013 if pretty much every poll taken in the province in 2012 holds up (although Clark says those polls are fatally flawed). Don’t forget: B.C. is the province of David Suzuki as well as Christy Clark.

 

Mulcair was quick to add in forestry and fishing — primary B.C. sectors — as well as manufacturing when he talked about industries hit by an inflated Canadian dollar.

 

The NDP has a grand total of one (1) seat in all of Alberta and Saskatchewan (Edmonton-Strathcona). In the next federal election, the NDP could pour more money into Alberta and Saskatchewan than it will spend in the rest of Canada and it might gain them only one or two more seats. That situation is not going to change for a long, long time despite Saskatchewan’s historic legacy as the home of Tommy Douglas and medicare. So, in a strategic electoral sense, It doesn’t hurt the NDP at all to alienate Alberta and Saskatchewan — as long as that stance translates into support for the party further east (and west, in B.C.).

 

Eighty of the NDP’s 102 seats are in Quebec and Ontario. Throw in B.C. and you’re talking 92 of 102 seats.

 

That enormous, unexpected, unbelievable bulge of 59 NDP MPs from Quebec is the party’s Achilles heel — it could recede in 2015 just as easily as it magically appeared last year.

 

So a primary battle cry that is both ecologically hip and implies that reining in the excesses of Western Canada will benefit Eastern Canada is a platform that will sell well in Quebec. And, if Ontario’s manufacturing sector continues to decline over the next three years, the “Dutch disease” mantra may have a stronger resonance —it doesn’t have to be right, it just has to feel right in the gut of someone who’s on the edge of losing his or her job.

 

To put it another way, Alberta has become too successful and too single-minded for its own good. That economic power (which turned regional alienation into regional arrogance) and a blanket electoral loyalty to the Conservative Party also make Alberta a target. Because, even though Albertans now have great economic and political clout, the political power exists only because riding-rich Ontario decided in the last election to side with Alberta’s view of the world. Ontario being Ontario, the pendulum could just as easily swing to the left in the 2015 election if Ontarians think they’re being left behind economically.

 

If the NDP can make a breakthrough in Ontario and hold two-thirds of their unexpected Quebec support from the last election, you could be talking Prime Minister Mulcair in 2015, not Prime Minister Harper.

 

4. What’s wrong with divisiveness, anyway?

 

Let’s rewind Rex Murphy:

 

“It is the most divisive debut of any opposition leader I can recall and potentially very dangerous to Confederation.”

 

Let’s rewind even further to 2000, when Stephen Harper had this to say:

 

“I, too, am one of these angry Westerners … We may love Canada but Canada does not love us … Let’s make (Alberta) strong enough that the rest of the country is afraid to threaten us.”

 

Well, maybe fear is a legitimate basis for a good relationship — but I think even Rex Murphy would have trouble defending the paranoia of that 2000 Harper statement as less divisive than “Polluters Pay.”

 

Harper also advised then-premier Ralph Klein to build a “firewall” around Alberta to protect it from the depredations of ROC ( that’s the Rest of Canada if you don’t remember Alberta’s 1990s separatist rhetoric.)

 

But regional tension and economic envy and sibling rivalry have always been part of the Canadian mosaic. It’s nothing new, it’s constantly evolving and — so far — we’ve survived and thrived (relatively speaking).

 

5. The unspoken element of jealousy.

 

This is a subtext of the “divisiveness” issue. Nobody will actually talk about it (at least in public) but regional jealousy will always be there in the national debate: You have more than I do, I want what you have, and I don’t like you because you have what I want.

 

It’s a terrible worm in Canada’s gut but to deny it is to deny reality. The best leaders in Canada’s history recognized it was there and did their best to control it (none ever did completely) by trying to get Canadians to think in terms of national good instead of provincial and regional well-being. But when the divide between haves and have-nots (in both economic and political terms) becomes too great, the worm turns nasty.

 

We’ve seen Quebec use its electoral numbers to lash out in that situation. And Atlantic Canada would have done so over the past half-century if it could — but it just didn’t have the political numbers and so was forced to suffer in sullen resignation. The Conservatives are now in power in Ottawa because Harper was able to harness that worm in the West over the past decade and subdue it, at least temporarily, in Ontario. It’s hard to think of used-to-have-it-all Ontario in those terms, but the worm is there now.

 

If that worm is still in Ontario’s gut in three years time, the big numbers there spell trouble for Harper and Alberta. In Quebec, the NDP could very well ride a wave of resentment and jealousy into another strong showing. Nobody will actually talk about something as petty and base as jealousy, but recognizing (and accommodating) that unspoken element could be the hidden key to the NDP retaining a substantial part of its very fragile support in Quebec and making gains in Ontario.

 

Most voters wouldn’t admit the motivating factor of jealousy even to themselves. But if it’s there, they will find an issue to support, even an excuse, to feed that worm. And make themselves feel better, if only for a while.

 

6. It’s now a two-way fight between the NDP and Conservatives. The Liberals have been marginalized in the debate.

 

I’m not sure what Bob Rae was thinking when he joined the attack on Mulcair for being somehow anti-West. One or two or three years down the road, this debate is going to clarify along the lines of Big Business Profit versus Common Canadian Good (if the NDP has its way — and I think they have a good chance of pounding home their message.)

 

The Conservatives are going to be on the big business side of the proposition because that means prosperity, jobs and security. The NDP are going to be on the other side of the equation because the oil sands offer enough financial leeway that they can sell a game plan offering (less) prosperity but ecological and generational responsibility at the same time.

 

And where are the Liberals in all this? Nowhere. Yapping around the edges of the debate without a clearly defined profile.

 

If environmental responsibility and a legacy mandate become the central issues of the 2015 election, the Liberals will be left in limbo, trying desperately to create a relevant position. They sure aren’t doing that right now.

 

7. And it all comes down to how the economy is going in 2015.

 

We’re not talking about the well-being of corporations or Charles CEO — we’re talking about Johnny and Jacques Paycheque. The bottom line of the oil companies and the banks won’t matter. What will matter will be the bottom lines of Canada’s working families — especially in Quebec and Ontario.

 

If the economic engine of the Alberta oil sands is not able to create jobs and security in Ontario and Quebec over the next three years, then the NDP message is going to find fertile ground in those riding-rich provinces.

 

And that is why Stephen Harper is afraid of Thomas Mulcair — or should be, if he isn’t already.

 

If the Conservatives could form a majority government in 2011 with less than 40% of the popular vote and only five of the 75 seats in Quebec, surely it would be possible for the NDP to form a majority government in 2015 with only one or two of the 42 seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Thomas_Mulcair_wiki

The next federal election will be determined by whether the Conservatives can hold on to their gains in Ontario and/or the NDP can hold on to their gains in Quebec while improving their position in Ontario.

 

One way or the other, the Alberta oil sands are going to determine how voters in Ontario and Quebec cast their ballots in 2015.

 

If, in the end, the 2015 election boils down to something as crude as the Conservatives representing the dreams and power of the West and the NDP representing the fears and needs of the East, then the numbers favour the NDP.

 

No matter what, Thomas Mulcair did not make a political blunder by attacking the Alberta oil sands. Whether you agree or disagree with him, you have to admit it makes perfect political strategic sense for Mulcair and the NDP to stake out that position.

 

It will be an interesting three years.

 

He’s Got Bette Davis Eyes

- April 20th, 2012

mulcair_eyes

 And he’ll tease you, he’ll unease you,

All the better just to please you.

He’s precocious and he knows

Just what it takes to make a pro blush.

He’s got Greta Garbo standoff sighs.

He’s got Bette David eyes.

— with apologies to Kim Carnes, Donna Weiss and the fabulous Jackie DeShannon

 

bette_portrait

The eyes are the window of the soul, so the saying goes.

 

If that’s true, then the NDP’s new leader has a very steely soul.

 

I’m talking about the TV ads that are currently bombarding us with images of this guy with eyes that spark and flash and burn with zeal — but not in a good way. No, it’s more shining like the eyes of a steel shark circling in for the kill. Hard, merciless, heartless.

 

Now I’m sure Tom Mulcahy … sorry, Thomas Mulcair … (sure it’s not Tomas Mulroney?) …  whatever his name is … isn’t really that kind of guy. He’s probably warm and cuddly and sweet. Just ask the other people who ran for the leadership of the New Democratic Party. I’m sure they’ll tell you what a sweet, warm, cuddly  guy he is. Really.

 

But I see these ads running on TV now and all I can think is, “He’s got Bette Davis eyes.”

 

Don’t get me wrong: I like Bette Davis. Thomas Mulcair? Ehhh — don’t really know yet. I’ve never met the guy. (And I can tell in five face-to-face minutes whether someone — anyone — is genuine, a sleaze or an out-and-out psycho danger to society.)

 

But he’s got Bette Davis eyes.

 

And they’re cold. And hard. And calculating. And self-serving. And cold. (Did I say that already?) And self-serving. (I’m sure I said that one.)

 

Not that Bette Davis was a saint but, jeesh, she never wanted to run a country.

 

So let’s look a little closer and see what we deduce.

Thomas-Mulcairjpg

youngishbettedavis
Hmmm, so far it’s a tie. How are they with a drink in hand?
MULCAIR_drink
Bette-Davis-glass
Oh, Bette wins this one by a mile. I’m with The Maltese Falcon’s Kasper Gutman when he says, “I distrust a man who says ‘when.’ If he’s got to be careful not to drink too much, it’s because he’s not to be trusted when he does. “
But how about sex? Not right now, thanks, I’m busy. I mean what if you punch in “Thomas Mulcair sexy” for a Google image search? What do you get?
Well, you get this.
Mulcair
Not really sexy in my books, but what do I know.
And you also get this.
sexy_tara_reid-4829
And this.
old_man_cowboy_hat_nude
Hmmm. Politics makes for strange bedfellows.
Try Googling “Bette Davis sexy” and you get this.
bette-davis-sexy
portrait26
Well, I think Bette wins again.
But then I tried “Thomas Mulcair kiss” and got this (among other things).
Mulcair-kiss-wife
Mulcair and his wife kissing at the NDP convention. Nice. Not terribly hot, but nice.
Then I Googled “Bette Davis kiss” and got … squat. Lots of pictures of Bette Davis but hardly any actual pictures of the screen siren in an actual clinch and smooch. Of course there are a few.
Kiss-against-wall
But so few you begin to wonder.
Then you look at relationships. First, Bette Davis at her daughter’s wedding …
bette_davis_and_daughter
Mulcair-Layton
 I think this one goes to Mulcair even if he is playing a little hard to get.
And what about anger management? Especially with those cold steely eyes.
angry-thomas-mulcair-ndp
Baby-Jane
Betty Davis laughing
I don’t know — Bette Davis by a nose? I really thought there would be more photos of a really crazy-mad Bette Davis floating around out there.
So maybe there is hope for Thomas Mulcair after all. If he can keep his arrogance and temper in control. If not …
bette-davis-gun