The challenge isn't simply to get youth to vote. First, you have to inspire youth about the act of voting itself. There's no point in getting youth to vote if it's an activity they really would rather not be doing; that won't form a lifelong habit of voting. You have to first sell the benefits of voting before you can push youth to the polls.
The NDP has consistently found itself burnt by attempts to move the Party's policy to the centre. The overall impression is one of placing political calculus ahead of principled policy, and for a Party once known as the "conscience of Parliament," that appearance must be very troubling.
Restrictive voter identification requirements preventing non-Conservatives from voting were a myth. Rather, voter turnout hit 68.3 per cent, the highest turnout in over two decades. It turns out, when you allow 38 different pieces of identification, people will overwhelmingly use those pieces of ID and just get on with voting.
When Justin Trudeau was elected in 2008 it was clear to everyone that he could never be destined for the backbenches. They sat Justin Trudeau directly behind me in the House and for almost three years I got a ringside view of his development. His rhetoric, at times bawdy, nevertheless carried intensity in the Parliamentary chamber. I was asked more frequently than I could count whether he was the real deal or just his father's son. My answer was always the same: both.
With a lead in the polls, Thomas Mulcair fell victim to the Conservative definition of the NDP as fiscally irresponsible and led with a promise to balance the budget. After years of austerity measures, that rightward fiscal turn felt to many like a betrayal of NDP values in search of a few votes. And by the time the NDP started plummeting in the polls and Mulcair reasserted their progressive position, it was too little, too late.
Politics is theatre on a grand scale. People go to the theatre neither to watch the actors nor to listen to them. They want to be transported into the world of the play: to suspend disbelief. The politician who can evoke an emotional response is the politician we will inevitably favour.
During the federal candidates forum in my riding I noticed that both the NDP and Conservative candidates didn't mention their leader's name. It wasn't surprising. It's been hard differentiating between the campaigns of Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper.
We shouldn't be judging a political leader on what he or she has been saying or doing a few weeks before an election. Assessment needs to be based on the prior years. In Mr. Trudeau's case, even putting aside the question of what we should expect to see in someone with such a privileged upbringing, a quick review of the past couple years is evidence enough.
Karen Selick recently wrote the most honest column we will see in this election campaign -- Ms. Selick would permit "niqab-wearers" the benefit of Canadian citizenship, so long as they continued to play by her rules. If they did not, she suggests Canadians ought to deny them service at restaurants, refuse them as renters and as employees. What Ms. Selick fails to understand is she is affirming that her own membership is conditional.
Caught up in its contradictions, the NDP hopes nobody will notice. There is the Sherbrooke Declaration NDP, which promises a condition-free right to opt out for the Government of Quebec. And then there is the centralist NDP, which unilaterally sets its childcare plan according to a rigid model incompatible with the contemporary practice of Canadian federalism.
When the Muslim Canadian Congress called for an outright ban on the wearing of the niqab or the burka, they have gone too far. But that doesn't mean that we have to celebrate such restrictive clothing. Apart from the degrading and misogynistic aspects of burkas and niqabs, they offend against a fundamental implicit tenet of our society.
Each of the leaders would present a different face of Canada to the world. Mulcair clearly demonstrated a new NDP approach to the realm of foreign affairs for Canada. Trudeau worked hard to dig into his opponents, but didn't present himself as a possible world leader. Stephen Harper managed to stay out of any major trouble and reinforced his image as a "tough on terror" PM.
On Monday night in Toronto three major party leaders showed their wares and clashed swords in front of a well-dressed crowd at the Roy Thomson Hall. While the leaders debated foreign policy, the viewers, in essence, looked to gauge who looked best to represent Canada on the world stage.
The trend is clear: when voters are faced with a left-leaning party campaigning on centrist economic ideals, they will pick the real deal every time. Every. Single. Time. At its best, Mulcair's NDP can inspire. Bill C-51 is the best example, but its universal child-care policy and promise to abolish the senate also fall into this category. But there have been too many blunders. Mulcair's sudden love for balanced budgets not only affirms the faulty framework that inexplicably lauds Stephen Harper as a responsible steward of the economy, it cedes precious ground to Trudeau at the moment Canadians want an alternative to neoliberal pabulum.
Thomas Mulcair, head of the NDP, has not been able to use any of the leaders' debates to stop his party's loss of momentum, making him the loser of this first meeting in French. Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe performed well, whereas Justin Trudeau stumbled on several occasions and had his worst debate performance since the beginning of the election campaign. The wearing of the niqab and the constitutional question sharply divided the federal party leaders and created some lively exchanges.
All party Leaders in this election will -- or at least should -- tell you that they want to see more women in politics, and that Canadians would be better served by a more balanced representation in the House of Commons. But what sets Tom Mulcair apart from Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, is that he won't simply wring his hands and lament the sad state of affairs.