The new conventional wisdom that Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair are jockeying for "the centre" is laughable. The only objective is political power, nothing more. The Liberal Party of Canada is the country's one and only authentic centrist party. Liberals have never strayed far from the sensible and vital centre in economic, social, or foreign policy.
The real question pundits should be asking is: Should the Liberals merge with the New Democrats? For his part, Justin Trudeau concedes that, if his party does not "shine" by the 2015 election, a merger may indeed be the only way to evict Stephen Harper from 24 Sussex Drive. A recent poll asked Liberals if they like the idea of a merger, a staggering 64 per cent said yes. This poll also found that 56 per cent of Canadians see the Liberals as a spent force. Doesn't seem so crazy now, does it?
The polls have spoken -- Stephen Harper is unpopular, and will surely be replaced in no time. But by whom? Thankfully the pundit brigade have lots of fun ideas -- Spoiler Alert: Probably Mulcair. That is, if the Tories' new attack ads against him don't get in the way. Although these televised attacks are a little lacklustre compared to the Conservatives' greatest hits.
Mulcair lives in the lap of the luxury he rails against, offers ruinous prescriptions that attract headlines, and does not do his homework. On the other hand, Mulcair is good news for the Tories, but Canada faces serious choices and needs intelligent conversation. It need a smart opposition as a check and balance.
After reneging on his anti-Bill C-38 statement, David Wilks stressed that he had no choice but to vote with the government, saying that's "how Ottawa works." But to those demonizing Harper for this, let us not kid ourselves: Harper has only improved, refined -- and has taken much too far -- the model first introduced by the Liberal Party of Canada and its leaders.
In this week's editorial pages we got to meet Thomas Muclair, SCARY ENEMY OF NATIONAL UNITY when he railed against the Alberta oil industry. All the western premiers quickly fired back, calling Mulcair's grasp of economics "tenuous and "goofy." But some are conceding that Muclair is being pretty damn "clever" in rejecting one of the dominant pieces of conventional wisdom in post-Harper Canadian politics: that you need the West to win.
It's disconcerting to read that members of all three main federal parties agree that the current committee system is seriously flawed. One long-time Liberal MP, Mauril Belanger, quit a committee on which he had served for nearly two decades, saying it was no longer possible to accomplish anything in what had become a hyper-partisan environment.
As we approach the month of June, the Liberal party will soon be making a decision on when to hold their next leadership convention. With roughly a month to go, there doesn't seem to be much interest from the public in what they do or, for that matter, what they decide. Clearly at this point in time the NDP offers voters the biggest contrast with the governing Conservatives; the Liberals still don't seem to fit in anywhere.
When Thomas Mulcair became party leader, outspoken MP Bruce Hyer was passed on the new shadow cabinet. Mulcair noted how, "Bruce simply feels that he's allowed to come up with his own decisions." But then again, one has to wonder if that is a good or bad thing, or a sign of how our political system is broken.
The real battle begins today with Mulcair's chosen team in place. Let us not forget the NDP are supposed to be the government-in-waiting and it will be interesting to see how Mulcair's shadow cabinet performs in a head-to-head match up with Conservative ministers.
There seems to be consensus among political commentators that Thomas Mulcair is better placed than the leadership candidates he defeated to keep Quebec in the NDP fold. However, how much of the ability of the NDP to keep its Quebec seats is in Mulcair's hands?
For broadcast journalists, covering a party convention is the ultimate challenge. Adrenaline surges. Competition is fierce. Reputations are made and lost. At the NDP convention this weekend Mansbridge covered politics. And relished it. And chewed it up and spat it out.
Instead of reading Marx, Mulcair probably studies political polls. What does it all mean? Well, it means the stodgy, class warfare, Solidarity Forever NDP is gone forever, relegated like Edsels, mood rings and Nehru jackets to the dustbin of history. This time the question was: Who can beat Prime Minister Stephen Harper?
The media seem obsessed with the difficulty of creating party unity and "healing the wounds" of the campaign. I really don't get a sense there will be a lot of wounds. The opportunity for growth will surely make the party put aside their differences and work together under Thomas Mulcair's leadership.
Mulcair, throughout his career, has displayed the Harper-esque confidence, stubbornness, and vitriol that can allow a supposed underdog to keep fighting until he wins -- as Harper did. Thomas Mulcair is not Stephen Harper, but, he may just be the closest thing the NDP has ever had to him.
The real campaign being waged in a leadership race happens a long way away from the television debates and the convention floor. It's waged in community centres in Surrey B.C. and Longeuil, bars in Halifax and Biggar, and on the phone every day. The ground game is political trench warfare.