We like Cullen best .. but we’ll probably bet on Mulcair from Outremont (and hope for “a coalition” in the end)

Mar 21st, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

Looking like a man who is pleased with his latest between-election attack ads, Prime Minister Stephen Harper boards the Airbus in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, en route to Bangkok, Thailand. SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS.

PM Harper has now “left for a weeklong, three-country tour of Asia,” and will not be around for the NDP leadership convention in Toronto this coming Friday and Saturday.

The Toronto newspapers – here in the city where our own global head office is located – have nonetheless been full of razzle dazzle about the official federal opposition party leadership race, which will at long last come to an end. And, to start things off, it has just been announced that “NDP Leadership: New Democrats plan to showcase new leader on Canada-wide tour.”

This may or may not reflect some recent advice from Tim Harper in the Toronto Star: “NDP leadership: The race to define the next opposition leader … The NDP goal is clear – get there first … In other words, define or be defined.” Ie, by the kind of between-election attack ads recently launched by Mr. Harper’s party against interim Liberal leader (and former NDP premier of Ontario, way back when), Bob Rae.

“Kim Kardashian Promotes her Fragrance in Canada.” We still have not given up on the as yet unverified rumour that she may soon be promoting Nathan Cullen at the NDP convention in Toronto too.

Today in the Globe and Mail the always estimable John Ibbitson has been explaining that “Bob Rae attack ad shows it’s a Liberal revival the Tories fear most … The Conservatives and the NDP would both benefit from seeing the Liberal Party expunged. For the NDP, it would make them the only realistic alternative to the Conservatives. For the Conservatives, a two-party race against social democrats is a race they are confident of winning over and over again.”

Yesterday in the Globe and Mail Lawrence Martin argued that “All parties have a stake in the NDP leadership race … There are two politicians, Bob Rae and Thomas Mulcair, whom Conservatives do not wish to see leading the opposition parties … At stake this weekend is an altering of the country’s political dynamic. It’s about the old versus the new. Brian Topp, Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar represent the forces of tradition … A victory for the … forces … represented by Mr. Mulcair, by Martin Singh, and by wild card Nathan Cullen, who could provide the big surprise of the weekend, offer the likelihood of a departure from that paradigm.

Merci LES CARICATURES «ROYALES» DE GARNOTTE, Le Devoir. (And if you can’t quite make it out, that’s former UK PM Tony Blair watching over Thomas Mulcair in PM Harper’s nightmare.)

To a man (and more importantly woman), we counterweights editors collectively share the preference for the wild card Nathan Cullen, expressed by our colleague Dr. White in this space the day before yesterday. But wild cards are just that. And we agree that the eminent Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail is probably closest to something that approaches some kind of deeper truth in his column today , “Who can recast the NDP for Canada? Mulcair.”Â  We agree with Mr. Simpson as well, when he writes: “Whether that would make” Thomas Mulcair “the best party leader over time, let alone prime minister of Canada some day, is another matter.”

Having cast our lot with Central Canadian common sense and sobriety in this way, we want to conclude our who-cares-what-we-think endorsement for this coming Saturday with allusions to two voices from Western Canada – which seems to be where our hearts and minds lie deepest at this particular potential “altering of the country’s political dynamic,” in the strange spring of 2012.

It may be Kim has learned about Canadian politics from Justin, and hopes to show her critic John Hamm (aka Mad Men’s Don Draper) a more careful side?

The first is today’s Vancouver Sun column by Barbara Yaffe, “Liberals, NDP inch closer together … Parties agree on many issues, while Mulcair and Rae have both played on the other team”… candidate Nathan Cullen … argues that cooperation among progressives is crucial in view of the hard-core, right-wing inclinations of the current crop of Conservatives … with two of the five leading NDP leadership candidates – Cullen and Mulcair – both interested in ‘modernizing’ their party, the notion of some sort of cooperation with Liberals is bound to resurface … if Mulcair were to become leader … even less daylight would ultimately be visible between New Democrat and Liberal policy positions … The two parties might just opt to set aside … whether to embrace socialism or capitalism, and proceed purely on a pragmatic basis … While I doubt a full-blown formal merger is in the cards, stranger things have happened in politics.”

The second is a report in today’s Edmonton Journal by Mark Kennedy: “NDP’s Cullen backs anti-Tory coalition … Let’s run with Liberals, Greens, leadership candidate proposes … NDP leadership contender Nathan Cullen says his party should elect joint candidates with the Liberals and Green party in the next election … Cullen … is the wild card in the NDP leadership race… The British Columbia MP said his idea to work with other parties is gaining traction, as people recognize the dangers of giving Stephen Harper’s Conservatives another majority government in 2015 … ‘If the explicit question is put to me: Am I willing to work with the Liberal party in a coalition government, then yes. I was last time’… Moreover, he said the parties should make it clear while they are seeking votes from Canadians that a coalition is a ‘possible scenario’ … Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister, is now recognized as the contender who will almost certainly be ranked first on the opening ballot … It’s difficult to predict if he will win on subsequent ballots.”

Clockwise f top l: Thomas Mulcair, Paul Dewar, Peggy Nash, Brian Topp, Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen.

The key trouble with Mr. Cullen, we agree, is that he does not come from Quebec, and thus does not speak French as well as the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada / Nouveau Parti démocratique du Canada should, at this very strategic juncture in its history. What we are finally hoping (all jokes about Kim Kardashian aside) is that Mr. Mulcair will win on subsequent ballots – but then take his BC colleague Nathan Cullen’s very wise advice about working “with the Liberal party in a coalition government” as a “possible scenario” for 2015. (And remember: Nathan Cullen was born as recently as 1972, and is just about to enter his 40s. He still has lots of time to become more fluent in Canada’s other official language – and do many other interesting things, a little further down the road.)

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  1. […] Counterweights agrees, but sagely cautions that it probably isn’t going to happen and that Thomas Mulcair really has some advantages in having a better chance of holding the Quebec/BC alliance that is the Orange Crush NDP together. […]

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