Monday, April 09, 2012

After The "Honeymoon"

These are great days to be the NDP. Whatever lull the party experienced after the death of Jack Layton has been corrected, terrific polling translates to realistic government in waiting proclamations. As stated prior, Mulcair brings a perceived "regional" base of support from which to grow, a challenging dynamic for we Liberals moving forward. However, acknowledging strength doesn't equate to envisioning Prime Minister Mulcair, that is an entirely different calculation.

The honeymoon phase, a politican can do no wrong, shiny and new, the simple ability to stand erect translates to fawning praise. Case in point, apparently Mr. Mulcair had a great week in Parliament, but really it was pretty ordinary by normal standards. Perhaps a human condition, we tend to exaggerate "newness" because of inherent attributes it entails, as opposed to simple recognition of objective performance. This sensibility works well during the "honeymoon" phase, but inevitability the "flavour of the month" wanes and in Canadian politics were are left with one of the most uneviable job, that of Opposition Leader.

The opposition parties have been working reasonably well together of late. People will recall during the Liberal years, even more ideological divergent parties also worked well together, a common enemy tends to blur edges. However, with the arrival of Thomas Mulcair, we have seen an almost instanteous poisoning of the "relationship" between the NDP and Liberals. Granted, the Liberals have reacted defensively, as they come to grips with life that involves a permanent, robust Leader of the Opposition, but it's more than that, and it is here we need to train our gaze moving forward.

A very interesting observation from former MP Glen Pearson on his blog, well worth a read beyond the quotation I present:
Which brings us to Thomas Mulcair. I never talked to the man – by his own choice. We sat in the same lobby together for a number of years and not once did he acknowledge me when I said hello – likely because I wasn’t a significant player. He would journey down to our end of the lobby to grab a coffee or a tea, always with blinders on, and always with no intention of talking to any of us. If there were ever to be an initiative to work in compromise with other parties, this might prove difficult now.

Let me state here that I have always had an appreciation for the NDP, despite some difficult moments early in my political tenure. People like Paul Dewar, Chris Charlton, Nathan Cullen, Joe Comartin, Irene Matthyssen, and, yes, Jack Layton, came to be my friends.

I note, Rae has alluded to a similar point, obviously a sense that Mulcair is not someone you can collobrate with. You can chalk it up to partisanship, but I note this is the same vein that people like Broadbent, Rebick have articulated, the sense "nobody can work with this guy". Pearson conveys an arrogance, as well as looming liability, because a politican who can't build consensus is doomed, not a luxury trait, an utter must. When the honeymoon ends and serious critique begins, it is here that Mulcair may seem vulnerable. Is the pettiness we heard this week from the opposition benches the new reality with Mulcair? I posit that "edge" will wear thin and the inability of the opposition to get along will be a contributing factor to further apathy. As well, style is style, if one is abrasive and "impossible", you don't confine that expression to certain entities, this character flaw with also manifest within the family.

When the tan lines fade, I'll be looking to see if Mulcair is truly capable of reaching out, building consensus, rallying in inspiring fashion, demonstrating a capacity for team play. Say what we want about Harper's temper, Harper's almost anti-social disposition, he was and is a master at keeping all oars in the water rowing in the name of common cause, that's partially why he is Prime Minister today. The jury is very much out on Thomas Mulcair, the recollections of Mr. Pearson instructive when the real scrutiny begins.


sharonapple88 said...

The whole part about monopolizing the debate on the budget was bizarre. It would have been great if the NDP had spent the entire time taking down the budget, but when it descended reading tweets, it just became sad. You have to get the Conservatives riled up. Get media attention at least. The fact that both the Conservatives and reporters appeared indifferent to the entire thing shows how effective this was against the Conservatives -- not at all.

Pearson did mention Mulcair's temper, and I do think it's been evident in the last week. And his temper is a definite weak spot because Mulcair tends to swing wildly. This appears to be the case with Yves Duhaime.

Anyway, after Rae's speech to the Liberal caucus, where Rae took swings at Mulcair and the NDP, Mulcair swung back, but his punches lacked control. The biggest wild swing was when Mulcair accused the Liberals of not using their full 20 minutes for their response on the budget. Yes, but as Kady O'Malley noted the time Brison and McCallum used was closer to 18 minutes than the 11 minutes Muclair said they spoke for. Dan Lauzon jumped in and said that the NDP was misleading people since "they jammed us into tabling our sub-amendment ASAP, or we would have been cut-off." (If true, not nice.) As O'Malley tweeted, "I wouldn't make an issue of it except that the NDP is totally doing so, and it doesn't seem entirely based in fact. "

Mulcair made a few more comments on Wedneday made me think -- meltdown.

Steve V said...

I sense a new toxic tone between the opposition parties, which works to Harper's advantage.

Omar said...

I'm curious about all this talk that says the NDP under Mulcair's leadership is a threat to the LPC. I mean, maybe it is, but for me this new NDP entity has the opposite affect. The more I see of the Thomas Mulcair 'new way' for the New Democrats the more I feel inclined to drift back toward supporting the Liberals. Call me crazy, I guess.

sharonapple88 said...

I sense a new toxic tone between the opposition parties, which works to Harper's advantage.

I agree. It made me sick to my stomach seeing this all going on. There was sniping back and forth, but things seemed to have dropped off a cliff in recent days.

Steve V said...


I see it terms of Mulcair giving the NDP a stronger hold on Quebec, which is crucial for Liberals moving forward. Elsewhere I'm not convinced Mulcair will resonate at all, but in Quebec his winning leadership works against us. Anything can happen, I just see a steeper gradient with Mulcair.

JimmE said...

& now you have this load of crap I'm going to make a stink about this, starting by withdrawing my Victory fund

sharonapple88 said...

& now you have this load of crap

Yeah, I'm not happy about it, but I'm going to see what happens when we get an official leader. Short of that, I'm going to do what I can to see that this is brought up at the next policy convention.

But I do think Mulcair may have jumped the gun (ha, ha) on the long-gun registry. I say this because as far as I know, the NDP takes their policy conventions a lot more seriously than the Liberals do. Or that's the impression Olivia Chow and Stephen Lewis gave me when they were playing the talking-head roles during the leadership convention. Policy is generated by the members and sold by the leader. Lewis even told a story of how he had to campaign of a dog of a policy generated by the members back when he was leader. Mulcair has to first convince the members of this position. He can't unilaterally declare the change like this, even if he is the leader. Or that's the impression I have on the situation.

And there is no official NDP policy on the long-gun registry, as Bruce Hyer, one of the NDP MPs, pointed out. This allowed MPs to vote however they choose in a situation like this.

And yes, this is one of the issues that Quebec will love, but which might alienate rural Canadians. It's also a far-cry from Layton's previous position, which managed to straddle to two -- correct the registry, listen to what rural Canadians want.

A final thought: of politics does indeed dissolve into a two party system, I'm reminded of something John Cleese said about the two dominating parties in the UK -- how one side will build something only to have it torn down when the other party comes into power. It'll be interesting to see if this is what happens with the long-gun registry. Build it up, tare it down, in an endless cycle. Bleh, if that's what happens.

rockfish said...

That bit by radia, a known harper sycophant, is just background noise. The way the cons have poisoned the well -- where their urban mps didn't have to face the counter heat poured on opposition MPs from rural tidings -- has put the nail in a registry for a while. like a nep, it makes too much sense but the liars have drowned out common sense... Let Mulcair have his honeymoon; smart and sharp will win the day...

Möbius said...

Mulcair is an arrogant asshole, but he's hiding it well so far. Given enough rope, I'm sure his inner asshole will come forth. His popularity in Quebec will be a problem, though, for where else will the LPC grow?

Dredging up a new long-gun registry is surely a winner for the LPC.

Steve V said...

Yep. Mulcair probably can't win, but he also prevents the Libs from a serious rebound. Net positive Harper. AND, don't think this is why the Cons haven't attacked him yet, this is PURE strategy!!