NDP Leader Tom Mulcair knows the fight to woo voters is in the centre of the political spectrum.
But don't expect him to push his party full-steam in that direction, he says.
With the wind in his sails from the most recent national poll, Mulcair appeared on Quebec's most popular TV talk show, Tout le monde en parle, on Sunday for the first time since he took the helm of the New Democrats last month.
"We're going to bring the centre to us," Mulcair told host Guy A. Lepage when asked about concerns among NDP faithful that their new leader will try to move the officially socialist party to a more centrist political stance.
"If we change our ideas just to appeal to more people, and we compromise them, that's a problem."
Mulcair won the race to become the NDP's seventh leader, and leader of the Official Opposition, on March 24, replacing Jack Layton, who died last August from cancer. Layton was a guest on Tout le monde en parle during last year's national election campaign, in an appearance that was credited with helping his party capture an unprecedented 59 seats in the province.
Mulcair seized the opportunity Sunday to attack Prime Minister Stephen Harper on multiple fronts. He called the Conservatives hypocritical for pushing a law and order agenda while ignoring the country's environmental and fisheries laws, and deceitful for bringing in cuts to Old Age Security despite promises to "fully preserve" it.
"The Conservatives are taking apart all the great institutions of our country. Institutions that reflect our geography, our history," he alleged.
Mulcair's recent election to the NDP leadership has given his party a boost, particularly in his home province. A Léger Marketing poll for the Montreal newspapers Le Devoir and the Gazette suggests the NDP are in a statistical tie with the Conservatives, garnering 33 per cent support countrywide to the Tories' 32 per cent.
The survey of 1,506 Canadians also put the New Democrats atop Quebec, with a record 47 per cent support. It was conducted between last Monday and Wednesday and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Would make MPs vote to keep gun registry
Mulcair said Sunday that it was a "monumental error" for the Tories to kill the long-gun registry, and that if a future NDP election platform included a pledge to bring it back, he would make his caucus vote for it. Layton had allowed his MPs to vote freely on the issue in 2010 when it came up as a private member's bill in Parliament, though New Democrats were expected to toe the party line and vote to save the registry when the government presented a bill to kill it in the fall and winter.
Host Lepage then asked Mulcair whether he wasn't a politician "with your heart on the left and your wallet on the right," to which the NDP leader agreed.
"Sure, I know how to manage," Mulcair replied. "A lot of people have said the NDP has the best ideas but not the ability to manage a G7 country like Canada." But the four-term NDP governments in Manitoba and, until 2003, Saskatchewan show that the party knows how to run things, he said.
"We need to convince people that we can do the same," he said.
The NDP have launched their largest non-election advertising campaign ever to promote Mulcair. French-language ads premiered late last week and tout the New Democrats as the party that can achieve "a government that listens to Quebecers" and "a greener and more prosperous economy for everyone." The ads are slated to appear on popular TV shows, including Tout le monde en parle.
English-language ads will start this week.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair comments on the federal budget in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Thursday March 29, 2012. If there was any doubt that Thomas Mulcair's political universe revolves around Quebec, it was dispelled by his response to Thursday's federal budget. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair addresses the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday April 5, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand)