OTTAWA - What's in a name? Would an NDP leader by any other name smell as sweet?
Apparently, Thomas Mulcair thinks so. Or is that Tom Mulcair?
The freshly minted NDP leader has raised the political art form of saying different things in different languages to new heights. He's adopted different names: Tom in English, Thomas in French.
Throughout his political career in Quebec, he was known as Thomas Mulcair, using the English pronunciation of his name.
During the seven-month marathon NDP leadership contest, all news releases, announcements, posters and other paraphernalia issued by his campaign referred to Thomas Mulcair. Supporters chanted "Thomas, Thomas," although they generally used the French pronunciation, underscoring Mulcair's bid to cast himself as the Quebec candidate.
Thomas remained the rule in the opening few days of his leadership. A news release on last month's budget, for instance, provided pithy quotes from one Thomas Mulcair — in French and in English.
But a certain schizophrenia has since set in.
A French television ad launched last week refers to Thomas Mulcair. An English ad launched this week has the leader introducing himself to Canadians with a folksy "I'm Tom Mulcair."
The party's English website now features the smiling face of the new leader with Tom Mulcair in bold letters. On the French site, it's Thomas Mulcair.
A news release issued Friday announced in English that "Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair will deliver the keynote address at the Ontario NDP convention this Sunday in Hamilton." For more information, reporters were advised to contact Graham Carpenter, "assistant to Tom Mulcair."
The French version that followed at the bottom of the same release informed that it was Thomas Mulcair who'd be giving the speech and referred to Carpenter as "adjoint de Thomas Mulcair."
Spokesman Marc-Andre Viau says its simply a matter of personal preference.
"He prefers Tom in English and he likes Thomas in French so that's basically what we're using in terms of communications," Viau says.
"I don't think we'll ever ask for a correction if you guys refer to him as Thomas in English. It's not a big issue here."
Still, it's hard to think of another political leader who's chosen to present himself or herself to Canadians by two different names — at least not at the same time.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried out a more folksy nickname for his political debut. He went by Steve Harper during his first campaign in 1988. Perhaps because he lost that campaign, he's stuck to the more formal — and apparently more politically appealing — Stephen for the rest of his political career.
Former U.S. president George W. Bush once raised eyebrows at a joint news conference with Harper, casually referring to his buddy "Steve." At the time, longtime friends said Harper has been known as Stephen — never Steve —since grade school. Apparently not even his mother dared to use the diminutive.
Lester Pearson was known universally as "Mike" to friends and family. But, for public consumption, it was Lester who became prime minister.
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