Can Canadians trust Thomas Mulcair with the country's top job? Mulcair's image has been cleaned up by party strategists for the 2015 election, but we've seen enough of his behaviour and attitude over the years to make some judgement. Should Canadians judge Thomas Mulcair by his campaign image or by his character?
Temper is one defining characteristic of Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair has frequently been called "Angry Tom." Quick with sarcasm, stern and impatient to get things done, Mulcair often gets angry with political opponents. More than once Jack Layton had to do damage control because of what Mulcair said. In 2011 Thomas Mulcair got into hot water when he doubted the United States had pictures of Osama bin Laden's corpse, proving the man was dead. He also hinted there was more going on than the United States was telling. "I don't think, from what I've heard, that those pictures exist. If they do, I'll leave that up to the American military," Thomas Mulcair told Evan Solomon on Power & Politics. The NDP scrambled to distance itself from Mulcair, saying Jack Layton was happy the U.S. had tracked down Osama bin Laden and believed what the White House said.
Even fellow NDP MPs had problems with Mulcair's temper. According to Charlotte Gray of The Walrus, federal NDP members confided to Robin Sears stories of tantrums in and boycotts of caucus, and explosive, spittle-flecked rages. When Libby Davies criticized Israel, Mulcair "stomped out of caucus and vowed not to come back until she was ejected." He avoided caucus meetings for weeks, but eventually returned. Layton tolerated Mulcair's fireworks because Mulcair was from Quebec and he knew Mulcair was too valuable to lose.
Taxpayer money and how it's spent is an issue since the senate scandal broke. But the improper use of taxpayer money has been an ongoing problem for Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair insists the $2.7M NDP satellite office scandal is about the other parties ganging up on the NDP and that the $2.7M is just a fine. In 2012, Elections Canada found the NDP guilty of violating political financing laws after a complaint was filed by the Conservatives. $350,000 of illegal sponsorship donations to the NDP national convention were made by unions. Sort of like the Conservatives in-and-out scheme. For a while the NDP under Mulcair's leadership disputed Elections Canada and then refused to say how much money was repaid.
All parties play to the edge of rules when it comes to using taxpayer's money. Mulcair saying, "everybody does it" or "the rules aren't clear" is not taking responsibility. Even if some 'bad apples' in the party broke the rules, it's the leader's role to be accountable and responsible. Rules should be followed and common sense used.
The media game is tricky for any politician. Mulcair has always been accessible to reporters. While he doesn't cut interview times short or limit questions, he does get dismissive in tone when he doesn't like a reporter's questions. An example is Mulcair's evasiveness when reporters ask about the $2.7M NDP satellite office scandal. His tone to reporters gets brittle, condescending, and even arrogant. Andrew Coyne on CBC's The National observed that, "Mulcair's anger comes out of moments when he hits a graceless note." Mulcair has no self humour and lacks the ability to take criticism.
Some might argue that Mulcair's past in Quebec politics shouldn't be a consideration for Canada's top job. While in Quebec politics, Mulcair was involved in a 'money in the envelope bribe'. According to Radio-Canada Thomas Mulcair knew about corruption in Quebec politics since 1994 when the Mayor of Laval allegedly offered him "help" in an envelope. Mulcair denied seeing the contents but knew there was money inside. Mulcair kept silent about the offer for seventeen years. In 2010, he denied being offered the bribe. Mulcair finally spoke up when the Charbonneau Commission was underway in 2011.
Then there's the story Mulcair was offered a senior advisory role for Stephen Harper in 2007 but turned it down because the money wasn't enough. Mulcair denies being offered $300,000. While that might be true, what job interview or discussion about a job doesn't discuss salary? As for why Mulcair didn't join the federal Liberals, Mulcair and Dion had bad blood between them because of an argument back in the days Dion was federal environment minister.
Like any employer, Canadians need to know the man they're hiring for Canada's top job. Can Canadians trust Thomas Mulcair with being prime minister?
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Mulcair didn't mince words about how unhappy he was to be there in the first place. "In my 36 years in government, I've never seen the governing party get together with its hand-maiden in the third party to convene the Leader of the Opposition," he said.
Mulcair was repeatedly accused of rambling on in order to chew up time, and avoiding simple "yes" or "no" responses. When he was told that he or one of the other MPs was out of time, he'd sarcastically reply, "oh darn." Tory MP Stephen Woodworth said that in five years sitting on a committee, he has never "seen a witness as evasive."
Mulcair also threw a personal dig at Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc who, like the NDP leader, is a lawyer. "I thought you were a lawyer," he said. "Maybe I was mistaken."
Mulcair also didn't care much for Liberal MP Sean Casey's attempt to trip him up with questions. "Sorry to destroy your Perry Mason moment, Mr. Casey," he said.
While singing the praises of his own party, Mulcair suggested the governing Tories are headed for "fourth, maybe third-party status" in the next election. He said Liberal "henchmen" would be lucky to get third party status in 2015. Apparently the NDP leader sees a surge in support coming for the Green Party and Bloc Quebecois.
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