TORONTO — You can forgive Outremont MP Thomas Mulcair for seeming a bit tired during his victory speech at the NDP leadership convention on the weekend.
After a six-month leadership campaign and a marathon voting day that went well into the evening, most NDP members were just happy the whole thing was finished and a new party leader was finally in place.
A former cabinet minister in the Quebec Liberal government, Mulcair left that party in 2007 and later became the province’s only NDP MP.
He had more pep Sunday morning in Toronto when he led his first caucus meeting as party leader.
Afterward, he faced his first media scrum. Here are some excerpts of the questions posed by reporters and Mulcair’s answers:
Q: The Conservatives came out with attacks against you very quickly. What do you think about that and how are you going to define yourself?
A: The party already gave an indication through the media last week that they were looking at some of our options and you’re going to hear a little more about that in the coming week. I think that we’re going to make sure that we do our job of defining things on our end. With regard to the Conservatives continued behaviour, they’re now in their seventh year in power. I think that, at some point, the secondary-school behaviour and that type of thing, a lot of Canadians get tired of it. If they can’t debate on the issues and they have to go personal, we’ll let them continue on that. We’ve got a different approach.
Q: Your speech Saturday night seemed to lack emotion. Are you an emotional guy?
A: Well, I can tell you right now we’re coming to an end of an almost six-month campaign, and it’s been an extraordinary campaign. Now it’s the time for us to make sure that we’re focused on the job ahead. We’re united. We’re facing a government that is very tough, very well structured, and we’ve got to do the same thing. We’ve got to structure an official Opposition that will bring a fight to them like they’ve never seen before.
Q: Are you planning to look at the NDP’s previous economic policies and making any changes between now and the next election.
A: Well, don’t forget, this is constant work that the party does. I just came out of a party meeting. There are policy groups. We adapt. Of course we do.
You won’t hear me talking about putting an end to the development of the oilsands, but what you will hear me say is you have to internalize the environmental costs. We’ve lost several hundred thousand good-paying manufacturing jobs because we’re not doing that. We’ve got an artificially high Canadian dollar. In the textbooks, it’s called the Dutch disease.
That’s what’s happening. So we’ve destabilized the erstwhile, balanced economy that we’d built up since the Second World War. Of course we’re going to be addressing that.
Q: In the NDP leadership campaign, half of your party members didn’t vote. Are you concerned about this?
A: So you had provincial elections last year in Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, a whole bunch of provinces. What happened there is all those provincial members automatically qualified (to vote). They appeared on that list, but a lot of them were provincial members, maybe more or less involved in the party at the federal level. That’s part of the explanation for what happened.
Q: You’ve said that you want to unite progressives under the NDP banner. How on earth can you attract Liberals who consider that several of the economic policies of the NDP party are hopelessly antiquated?
A: Well, don’t forget, we’re going to be (complementing) the extraordinary team of men and women that already comprise our caucus.
When you look at someone of the calibre of Craig Scott, who just won 60 per cent of Toronto-Danforth, who’s a Rhodes Scholar type of person, that we’re now recruiting, you’re going to understand how it’s now important for us to be able to project confidence and competence as public administrators.
That’s sometimes what was missing.
We are the only party that can stand up to Stephen Harper and form a government in 2015. That’s the job ahead.
Mulcair: Canadians tired of Tory antics | The Chronicle Herald