Sunday, September 08, 2013

Thomas Mulcair’s NDP: Butting Heads against a Brick Wall

Consider for a moment two facts.

One, the NDP is sinking in the polls, with the tide that started ebbing with Layton’s passing still receding from the distant shoreline of possible government.

And two, the old saying that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, hoping for a different result.

With Trudeau Junior at the helm of the Liberal Party of Canada, the polls have shown a slight decrease in support for Stephen Harper’s new Tories, a big uptick in Liberal fortunes, and a steady decline in those favouring the Dippers.  That’s the background.

And now consider this brave statement by Thomas Mulcair:

Saskatchewan was chosen as the site of next week’s caucus meeting because the redistribution of riding boundaries gives the NDP hope that gains are possible in that province. And Mr. Mulcair says he is convinced that Mr. Harper’s time is running out.

All over Canada, he said, “people are putting their arm on my shoulder and just saying, ‘When are you going to get rid of him?’”

But with the NDP trailing significantly, there is reason to question whether the party can even hold onto the new ridings it won in 2011 in Quebec and Ontario.

Will Canadians eager for change be turning to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals?

Mr. Mulcair said he is convinced his hard work will triumph.

“We know exactly what we have to do before the next campaign,” he said, “and we are just going to keep doing it.”

Excuse me?  Your party’s support is slipping, according to the polls, and that trend is remarkably consistent. Your own ratings as leader of that party are not the best compared to the other two party leaders. Your air-time has dropped like a stone.

And you know exactly what you  have to do to become the next government of Canada?

It’s time for a reassessment by the NDP. Something is not working. And that something is a serious something.

It’s not just the the NDP leader:  many like his political persona, his clear passion for the country, his idealistic approach to politics, his decency. And many don’t like the undercurrent of harshness in him, as well. He is abrasive sometimes, even when he is being his most sweetly reasonable self.  Listening to his earnest and on-message discussions with television journalists, you still get that nagging feeling: Is that the real Thomas Mulcair I am seeing and hearing?

It’s a bit like listening and watching Stephen Harper. You get that same feeling of concern, even when Harper is doing his  best to behave like a statesman.  The feeling that the real Harper is not like the one now talking.

It’s about authenticity.

Perhaps Mulcair would be better off if worked on being himself, and not the buttoned-down, controlled leader he comes across as. Perhaps he would appear slightly more authentic if he flared up, or teared up, or laughed from the belly, or did some  of those things that politicians who seem to have a finger on the pulse of ordinary people, do.

But Mulcair’s problem lies deeper than this, and so does the problem of his party.

The best the NDP can hope for right now in 2015 or 2014 (whenever Harper decides to call the next election), is enough seats in Parliament to decide which of the other two parties with minority seats will form the next minority government.

And the  best thing the NDP can do in such a case is to bargain for a modified proportional representation reform as a condition of its support.

Why will the NDP not form the next government of Canada?

Mulcair would make a good prime minister; certainly a far, far better one than the reactive, apparently unconcerned, and regressive one we are now saddled with.

But there are not enough Canadians who trust the NDP and Mulcair enough to carry out one of the two most important tasks we expect of our governments: building the economy so that Canadians have jobs and a rising level of wealth.

Too many of us see the NDP as one of the redistribution parties.  Not one of the wealth creation parties.

And nothing the NDP has done in the past three years is enough to change this deep-rooted view.

Unless that changes, the NDP will be a protest party, not a realistic choice for a government.

And just doing what it is doing now will not change that, Mr Mulcair.

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