Maclean’s magazine has published an excerpt of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s autobiography Strength of Conviction, which will be published on Aug. 1. In the 1,500-word excerpt, Mulcair describes his time as a lonely twentysomething federalist working for the PQ government in 1980.
Here are three of the most surprising things we learned about Mulcair in the excerpt:
1. The way he characterizes the effects of the War Measures Act and the actions of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s father, then-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, without naming him:
"By the early 1970s the language issue had reached full boil. The October Crisis had terrified the province. The invocation of the War Measures Act, giving the army and police extraordinary powers that led to the arbitrary arrest and detention, without charge, of hundreds of innocent people, inflamed the cleavages already dividing the population."
The NDP was the only federal party that opposed Trudeau’s use of the War Measures Act in responding to the FLQ crisis in October 1970.
2. Mulcair describes himself as “not crafty at all” and suggests he wears his Canadian heart on his sleeve:
"In 1980 I’d come across precisely two other federalists at Justice. One was very crafty about hiding it; the other was Pierre Gauthier, who, like me, is not crafty at all and wore his Canadian heart on his sleeve."
Mulcair may be trying to shore up his federalist credentials here. He and the NDP have been criticized for their plan to replace the Clarity Act with a law that would recognize Quebec sovereignty — and begin negotiations for the province’s secession — with a 50 per cent plus one majority.
The NDP’s position is outlined in a document called the Sherbrooke declaration. The Clarity Act, which says Ottawa will only negotiate if a clear majority of Quebecers vote “Yes” to a clear question, was enacted by Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien after the 1995 squeaker referendum. The Clarity Act does not spell out what a clear majority would be. The NDP has also been criticized by political opponents for having Quebec nationalists in their caucus.
3. Mulcair says he was involved in getting people out to "No" side rallies for the 1980 referendum.
"Pierre [Gauthier] was very actively involved in organizing for the ‘No’ side in the Québec City region. Pierre got me involved in getting people out to rallies, canvassing to locate potential ‘No’ supporters, and other campaign-related activities.
“It was my first real taste of political organizing, and his depth of experience taught me a lot. The usual ban on political activity by civil servants (in force before the Charter ended the ban) had been lifted by the PQ government for the referendum. Our next-door neighbour in Cap-Rouge, Claude Beausoleil, was also deeply involved in organizing, and through him I learned another important lesson: that participating meant a lot more than the old cliché about smoke-filled back rooms. You could hand out flyers. You could talk with your neighbours. I was amazed at how many of the people I spoke to planned to vote ‘No’ in Québec City."
This might be another attempt to paint Mulcair as a devoted federalist. But it’s new and interesting to us. Trudeau has often attacked Mulcair for his position on the Sherbrooke declaration saying the NDP plan would make it “easier to break up the country.”
Read the full excerpt on the Maclean’s website.
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