Friday, May 18, 2012

Mulcair Blowing It

Plenty of time for recovery, a tactical retreat- followed by more nuanced and diplomatic language- but make no mistake Mulcair is BLOWING it on the "dutch disease" file.  My friend BCL delivers the latest poll, which shows the NDP riding high, eclipsing the Conservatives, even leading amongst the key 60 plus demographic, impressive stuff. However, I take the longer view on this current debate, within that an opinion that this issue is quickly morphing into questions of confederation and national unity, both pure political death in the final analysis.

The NDP are handling this issue badly, as some have said, instead of clarifying, Mulcair is "doubling down", his rhetoric simply betrays any sense of PM in waiting.  To raise these questions so early in his tenure as Leader of the Opposition, Mulcair has raised issues of character and fitness, never mind giving his opponents easy attack lines.   That we see the Conservatives and the Liberals, lead by Dion, converging on this issue, speaks to how marginalized Mulcair's view can become.  Add in the barrage of consistent criticism from virtually all quarters, I'm hard pressed to see this ending well for the NDP, lest they make some dramatic course corrections.

At the heart, Mulcair has a economic argument to make, even the latest "independent" study does acknowledges at least "mild" validation of his thesis.   But, Mulcair has managed to needlessly alienate. It's the way Mulcair's articulating the message that is the problem, simply no political acumen, delivered like a novice, with NO understanding of Canadian sensibilities.  It doesn't matter if these Premiers are right of center, it matters that you conduct yourself like a national leader.  The intellectual arguments are secondary to perception.   Mulcair is handling this issue as though perferring a fight, rather than making a calm point, that deserves some consideration.  When confronted with push back Mulcair reacts like a guy not quite ready for prime time.

I'm not sure where the polls will take us, Mulcair is rock solid in Quebec at the moment and I doubt this issue hurts him in his home province.  That said, whatever economic traction Mulcair may get in Ontario is undercut by the now emerging "national unity" question.   Unless the NDP quickly rethink this strategy, Mulcair undertakes a concerted outreach, meets with some Premiers, makes some "revisions" in future speeches, he very much risks future prospects.  As well, Mulcair may, just may, be planting the seeds for a future Liberal revival.  Watch for it, because if national unity and federalism become a core issue moving forward, the Liberal Party will find its voice.

My political instincts tell me Mulcair has lost control of the core economic argument, it's evolving into discussions which will corner the NDP in undesirable fashion moving forward.  Let's watch if the NDP brain trust see the same forecast and modify the message.  Mulcair is still a blank slate with the majority of Canadians, but should he stubbornly keep up this divisive tone, he and his party will be mortally wounded.  Of that fact, I have no doubt whatsoever.


the salamander said...

I disagree..

Having accepted that Canadians were 'groomed' and defrauded electorally by a clever, entrenched, conceited and hard working politico/religious/consortium.. let's have a look at the fruits of their deceit and omnipotent thinking.

Why not start with the tar sands, the environment and the economy.. and the divisive impact of foreign ownership of Canadian resources and related export.

Why should Mr Mulcair temper his comments or views? Why not call a dog a dog? Why posture for votes a la Bob Rae? This is not a popularity contest.. its a country under siege from within. Leave the pomp and posing and rabid parliamentary preening to the kabuki theatrical expertise of Harper et al .. they're the evasion experts

I want to hear blunt hard questions directed to our government and Ministers regarding any decisions that do not reflect their electorate's wishes or the good of our country. Until we hear honest effective answers, I want the questions raised again and again. I have not heard an honest answer in a very long time.. I'm getting angrier and entirely disillusioned by the farce I see going on in Ottawa..

Kirbycairo said...

I agree with The Salamander. I don't think Mulcair has blown it at all. Because a) he is correct, (and proof of that is that even the Harpercons are loath to say his facts ar wrong). This phenonemon of economic development is so widely understood and acknowledged that there is really little point is denying it. and b) A large majority of people outside of Alberta and Sask. agree that this is happening and that the country needs and actual development strategy other than simply pandering to big oil, and c) Mulcair is finally a leader that is willing to stand up against the Cons and against big oil taking over our government (something that the LIberals haven't done for many many years)

Rather than Mulcair blowing it, he has gained in my estimation and further demonstrated that the LPC is little more than the lapdog of Stephen Harper.

Steve V said...

What a stupid comment.

sharonapple88 said...

One problem with Mulcair's approach is that I'm not sure the solution Mulcair proposes in his article, specifically cap and trade and environmental regulation, will do much against Dutch disease.

Some solutions on Dutch disease here and here.

Listing some of them, they are: heritage fund (keeping money from flowing directly to the country), investment in training and research and development in manufacturing, fixing the dollar to the US currency, and limit wage inflation in manufacturing.

But to me, and I could be wrong here, it's as though two separate problems have been merged together -- the environmental problems caused by oil development out West and Dutch disease. I may lack imagination. It's possible that Mulcair might try and create a pseudo-Heritage fund with the money from cap and trade (the West will really not like this)... and I've seen one argument made that enforcing cap and trade will increase the competitiveness of manufacturing (to me, this wouldn't slow down the cash flowing into the country). But I suspect that the two ideas don't really connect well.

(Depressing that we can't simply throw the argument out there that helping the environment is a good unto itself. Sometimes market thinking goes too far in our lives.)

sharonapple88 said...

(I'll also admit to not being an expert in either Dutch disease or cap and trade, so take the above with a grain of salt.) :P

Steve V said...

There is a bit of a disconnected argument, trying to merge the two together.

Just to be clear, I initially supported Mulcair on intellectually grounds, as well as believed he had an electoral audience. What I am saying now, he's blowing it in terms of where the debate is heading, it is morphing into other arguments which will bring into question fitness.

What angry people think is irrelevant, you need to appeal to moderates and if they perceive this guy is a threat to national unity, whatever economic argument will get lost, merit aside. It really is that simple.

Lorne said...

I wonder if your post is not the kind of perception that the right wants people to have. Had his comment not been seized upon and blown out of all reasonable proportion by media that are content to practise 'gotcha' journalism in lieu of substantive content, I think it would have been taken for what it was, a consideration of one of the consequences of unbridled tarsands development.

As well, for all of the alleged divisiveness of his comments, Mulcair did not propose terminating that development, but one would not know it by the hysterical reaction of the pundits and, of course, the Harper regime.

Steve V said...

Needlessly calling people "messengers", then having the arrogance to say he won't respond directly, that isn't "supposed", it's real.

Look again, people can say whatever they want, but I stand by my assertion that Mulcair needs to reign it in here and quick, he is not handling it well, it is spinning out of control. And, YES, of course the media will run with things, which speaks to the need to be careful, measured, calm.

I was one of the few to say Mulcair's initial "gambit" had electoral merit, so I'm not falling for any pundit bs here now, all I'm saying is my political radar sees storm clouds here, and one's that will last. People are free to disagree, and I still see some MERIT in what Mulcair is saying beyond the bombast.

Steve V said...

Even a NDP MP is feeling uneasy:

S.H. said...

The CPC has an advantage in putting out their messages as an attack. Not only do they craft these attacks carefully, pulling on emotion strings instead of unknown economic analysis but they do have much of the media and opinion makers ready to echo and support their attacks.

Layton avoided the out and out attack, preferring to hide those attacks with humour or a least a jovial manner.

Now the debate is about Mulcair's "attack" instead of the high dollar and it's effect on manufacturing or the benefits of upgrading our resources or the complete lack of any federal industrial strategy or the damage being done to the environment.

The attack on Mulcair is going strong but all the potential positives Mulcair mentioned in the same article are being ignored. Attacking is the CPC's and their media cheerleader's closely guarded ground.

S.H. said...


And Mulcair should take up Redford's challenge and then bring up refining and upgrading our resources in a positive manner to get back on message.

Maybe Mulcair should "challenge" Redford to visit a company in Ontario or Quebec to talk about their problems, as well.

sharonapple88 said...

Even a NDP MP is feeling uneasy

Well, understandable that Linda Duncan wouldn't be 100% enthusiastic about the situation.

Found an argument made here that putting a price on carbon wouldn't necessarily help manufacturing.

Scotian said...

I said when he was elected that Mulcair's temper could and I believed would become a problem for him and his party, and I have seen little since that changes that view of mine. Look, regardless of whether you agree with the economic argument he puts forward his big mistake was being so dismissive of several Canadian Premiers, in essence insulting the populations of those Provinces for daring to elected such folks to represent them in the first place. This is not the action of someone ready to run a confederation of regions/Provinces (which last I checked is what Canada is after all, despite the current de facto dictatorship we have in Ottawa thanks I will remind people to the NDP placing more import on gaining seats than stopping Harper when it still could have been done, and yes I am NOT letting that go, it is after all the naked truth/reality), but more of the same sort of arrogance that Harper specializes in. Since the electorate is starting to tire of Harper and his ways you would think it might be obvious that using similar aggressiveness might be contraindicated.

Personally, I do not think the current NDP is ready for prime time/government, ironically enough I would have been more willing to trust the NDP that existed pre-Layton with the many strong Parliamentarians it had than I do this more centrist anything goes to gain power party of hypocrisy. Mulcair comes off to me as brittle, and the single biggest reason the NDP are where they are today is not because their brand as a party is so well received but because they had one of the most charismatic leaders of the last several decades at its helm and it was HIS brand that sold the NDP (and the second biggest reason was his willingness to pander to soft nationalists in Quebec, a recipie followed by another leader named Mulroney which ended up crippling our political discourse for a generation, not a minor issue of concern and clearly evidence of expediency before principles in action). Mulcair is something very different and I believe will prove to be corrosive to that Layton brand, especially over the next several years of impotence being unable to do more than try to gain attention in Opposition in a majority, which I suspect in his case will end up with more and more angryman style approaches which in turn will help define him as such, something I suspect will not be seen as welcome by the majority of voters once they have tired of the Harper way of governing (especially since that single largest group of voters are not party partisans but swing voters, and mostly centrist ones at that) and I also suspect they will not want more ideological governing by inexperienced learning government either but a return to the older way of governing that existed before the Harper-Layton alliance of the last decade.

to be concluded...

Scotian said...


I make no bones about being rather hostile to the NDP these days, and I have always made clear why, their refusal to stop Harper from ever getting this far, which the NDP pre-Layton would have been reliable about. Layton turned the party from one of principles first to one of expediency for power first, the very thing they have condemned the Libs for doing for decades. Hypocrisy thy name is Dipper these days, and while I do not know what will happen in the next election I do know that the Libs are not as dead as Dippers and Harper wish they were, and it is actions like Mulcair's here that can and will help the Libs resurge as the credible governing alternative despite their current weak position. Remember I am not a party partisan, but for me the Libs became a de facto choice because I do believe in supporting the least evil option when there are no good ones and the actions of the CPC and NDP over the last decade have made both become greater evils (because one of the most serious dangers/evils I know of are those that believe they have right on their side in their cause(s) and are willing to go however far they need to to bring it about, which is and always has been a serious concern for me and others about the NDP, it is not the intentions we fear so much but the judgment in trying to enact them).

In any event Mulcair is not getting off to a good start, and polls mean little this early in a majority, especially when there is still a major party without a permanent leader chosen, that is simple political common sense.

liberal supporter said...

On the other hand, look at how much praise Rob Ford is now getting, just for showing up at a flag raising.
It's a tried and true routine, you're suddenly a great guy just because you stop being a dickhead. Even being slightly less of a dickhead and you're golden.

For now, it's nice to see how the CPC reacts to someone pulling the same crap on them that they've been pulling on everyone else for so long. They look even worse because it shows they can dish it out but can't take it.

Sooner or later someone will start captioning pictures of the outraged CPC cabinet ministers with "This is unfair!"

daniel said...

I say this as a card-carrying Grit and a regular donor to the victory fund: It's ridiculous how utterly apoplectic Liberals have been in reaction to Mulcair's every move since taking the helm as Opposition Leader.

If Mulcair is indeed as bad as many Liberals (perhaps wishfully) think he is, then let him hang himself on his own petard. We have a LOT of rebuilding to do, and redirecting this much firepower at the opposition instead of the government makes us look increasingly petty and desperate. It's almost as though the Liberal brass is hoping that Mulcair will fall so far that the Liberals will be restored to second-party status by default.

Of course, that's not going to happen. Further, though the divisive tack Mulcair has taken may be risky, it seems to be resonating enough with a portion of the public to make the NDP competitive with the Conservatives.

The Liberals need to start setting themselves apart from the Dippers by opposing the government more thoughtfully and effectively than the NDP, rather than barking about how abhorrently Mulcair is doing it.

For example, on the oilsands, the Liberals have a prime opportunity. Rather than employing Mulcair's "OIL SANDS BAD" rhetoric, there's an opportunity to both advocate for responsible and safe oilsands production, while acknowledging the continuing economic importance of oil in Canada.

Maybe the Liberals need a fresh face in the leader's chair to do that. While I admire Rae's intellect, he's the last person I'd bet on to restore the Liberal brand in Canada, especially given how bad the Rae brand is in Ontario.