Thomas Mulcair appears set to make the case that his is the party of peace.
Responding to reporters' questions in Montreal Thursday, a day before the final French language leaders' debate, Mulcair twice relayed fears that Canada could become more "war-like" if Stephen Harper's Conservatives win another four years.
The NDP leader was twice asked about his strategy for the potentially make-or-break debate, occurring as polls suggest the party's once seemingly insurmountable lead in Quebec has dropped.
Though most of his responses critiqued the Tories' environmental record — and the NDP leader even suggested at one point that Harper could have a "hidden agenda" on health care — Mulcair also spelled out how his approach to the Islamic State contrasts with all other leaders.
"The NDP is the only party with a clear position for peace," he said slowly. "A clear position to withdraw from the combat mission in Iraq."
The remark yielded a sustained standing ovation from the NDP supporters behind him.
And Mulcair's right. The NDP's position that Canada has no role in the fight against ISIS is dramatically different from the perspectives offered not only by Harper but also by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.
Duceppe hints independent Quebec would have joined ISIS mission
Last month, Duceppe told reporters that he supports the combat mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
"Sometimes in history, there's no other choice but to intervene in a military manner," he said. "It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is."
Duceppe, a vocal opponent of the 2003 Iraq war, even hinted an independent Quebec would have chosen to take part in the mission.
He also suggested that Canada's inaction in Rwanda contributed to that genocide.
Trudeau, whose Liberals voted against the combat mission last year, also vows to end the bombing mission if he wins government in just weeks.
But where he breaks from Mulcair is in his commitment to have Canadian military continue training local troops to fight ISIS militants.
Canada's allies 'all supportive' of mission: Harper
At the start of the Munk foreign policy debate Monday, moderator Rudyard Griffiths asked Mulcair: "If the threat the Islamic State represents doesn't justify a military response, when would an NDP government use military force?"
The NDP leader replied that Canada does have a "role to play" in the fight.
"We can help stop the flow of arms, help stop the flow of funds and of course help stop the flow of foreign fighters," he said. "There are more than 60 countries involved in the coalition. Canada would remain a member with us, but only 12 are involved in a combat mission."
A little later, Mulcair said the NDP supported air strikes in Libya in 2011 because it was a United Nations mission. The current fight in Iraq and Syria is not a NATO or UN mission.
Harper shot back that while not all NATO allies are involved in the coalition taking on ISIS, none are opposed.
"They're all supportive of our mission against the Islamic State. The United Nations is not opposed," he said. "In fact, this intervention is happening at the invitation of the government of Iraq, under international law."
Harper said the question of why Canada should abandon the mission is one that goes "begging."
Mulcair asked if ISIS poses ‘a threat to Canada'
The NDP leader also discussed his ISIS position in an interview with CBC News' Peter Mansbridge that aired in mid-September — when polls suggested Mulcair was the front-runner to win.
"So, we are out of the fight with ISIS if the NDP win?" Mansbridge asked.
"Yes, no question about that," Mulcair said.
"You're comfortable with that position?" Mansbridge asked.
"I'm profoundly in favour of that position," the NDP leader replied.
But the NDP leader had an interesting answer when asked by Mansbridge if ISIS poses "a threat to Canada and Canadians."
The real threat to this country, Mulcair said, is continued war in that region. The NDP leader added that the "horrors" of today flowed from the legacy of the Iran-Iraq war, Desert Storm, and U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein.
"I think that the best thing for Canada to do is to start playing a positive role for peace," he said.
Numbers in Quebec dipping
A poll released Thursday from the Angus Reid Institute suggests the NDP now sits at 33 per cent support in Quebec, followed by the Bloc at 22 per cent, Liberals at 20 per cent and Tories at 19 per cent.
Just a month earlier, the polling firm had the NDP at 49 per cent support in the province, with its closest competitor, the Bloc, at 18 per cent.
Nationally, the Angus Reid Institute has the NDP and Liberals tied for second place with the Liberals and seven percentage points behind the Tories.
With previous files, files from The Canadian Press
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