OTTAWA — NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has changed his mind about working with the Liberals.
The Opposition leader was adamant he would never join a coalition with the Grits in an interview with The Huffington Post Canada when he was running for the leadership of the New Democrats but now he is open to the idea.
"What we do, when we form government is what we've done in the past. What we did in 2008, which is to show openness to work with others," Mulcair told reporters following a caucus meeting Wednesday.
In 2008, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois formed a formal coalition in an attempt to overthrow the newly elected minority Conservative government, after they presented an unpopular budgetary update.
Mulcair said the NDP would run a full slate of candidate in the next federal election in 2015, but what happened after that was anyone's guess. Canadians told politicians during the last election that they wanted to see their elected officials work together, he said.
"Our priority is to get rid of Stephen Harper, I will let the others [political parties] explain what their priorities are," he said.
In a March 9, 2012, interview with HuffPost, however, Mulcair was clear that he would never form a coalition government with the Liberals.
"N.O.," he answered when asked about both parties working together.
The NDP tried to form a coalition with the Liberals in 2008 and then the Grits "lifted their noses up on it," Mulcair said.
Mulcair said the coalition experience with the Liberals taught him everything he needed to know about the party. They're untrustworthy, he said, and he pledged never work with them again — in a formal or informal coalition.
"The no is categorical, absolute, irrefutable and non-negotiable. It's no. Period. End of story. Full stop. Is there any part of that that you didn't get?" he said.
On Tuesday, however, the NDP leader showed the first sign of a change of heart.
Mulcair told reporters that in 2008 he was part of the team that proposed a coalition with then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion.
"When the crisis hit, I was part of the team that proposed a coalition. We were even willing to make Stéphane Dion the Prime Minister of Canada. That's the type of water we were willing to put in our wine," Mulcair told reporters.
"We've always said that we were willing to work with other parties. We're a progressive party. We want to get results," he declared.
The Huffington Post Canada has learned that it was Mulcair, then-NDP deputy leader and Quebec lieutenant, who brought the Bloc Quebecois onside during coalition talks. The involvement of the separatist party was one part of the coalition agreement that irked many Canadians and members of Parliament.
Anne McGrath, Mulcair's advisor and the former chief of staff to the late leader Jack Layton, told HuffPost that Mulcair "was the main negotiator in the bi-lateral talks with the Bloc to get their agreement to support the coalition."
"I spoke with him constantly about the Bloc talks and what we were doing with respect to the agreements regarding the Program and Mechanics and what steps we needed to take," she wrote in an email.
Asked about the whether the Bloc's involvement was a mistake, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he didn't want "to second guess decisions made in the past."
Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that he is still opposed to forming a formal coalition with the NDP.
"I was very clear during my own leadership [campaign] that I was not going to entertain any discussions around coalitions, and I received a very strong mandate from Liberals to hold to that, and I will hold to that," he said.
Trudeau said there were "significant substantive disagreements" between his party and the NDP, particularly regarding national unity and the economy.
"On unity, his willingness to break up the country on a 50 per cent plus one vote and repudiate the Clarity Act is unacceptable as is his cavalier approach to flinging open the Constitution," Trudeau said.
The Liberal leader said the NDP isn't trying to offer a better government than Stephen Harper, only a different one.
Mulcair suggested Trudeau didn't want to work with the NDP because he didn't want to help make Mulcair prime minister.
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