12/19/2012 05:06 EST | Updated 02/18/2013 05:12 EST

Mulcair: Like a Less Popular, Power-Hungry Layton


According to a new poll by Abacus Data, Stephen Harper has 34 per cent support from Canadians. This is a remarkable achievement for a leader who has been Prime Minister for the last seven years.

At 32 per cent for the NDP, the party is where it was at their breakthrough milestone electoral success with the late Jack Layton almost two years ago. Bob Rae's Liberals are at 22 per cent while Elizabeth May, who was recently chosen as Parliamentarian of the Year by Maclean's magazine, sits at 6 per cent.

In a poll done by the same polling firm The Huffington Post used for their story on the electoral destination of Generation Y, the NDP is the choice of young Canadians under 29 while the Conservatives have the advantage with older adults. Men and women were split, with the majority of men going with the Conservatives and women going with the NDP.

The poll also found out Harper's Tories lead in the vote-rich Ontario, Alberta and the Prairies while the two opposition parties split the rest.

The two leaders also enjoy a comparable favourable rating from Canadians. For a Conservative activist government which is changing the makeup and fabric of Canada, the result must be comforting for them. For the NDP, which has been mute on many leading issues and moments in Canada, its political success achieved a mere two years ago is not just a political flux but a reality -- they are contenders for power in 2015.

It seems the NDP's strategy of saying and doing little is working. While most (new) leaders use their free time kissing babies, attending events and having wide conversations with ordinary Canadians, it seems Thomas Mulcair has decided to remain invisible and it seems to work. That way, he has become an unknown political commodity outside of Quebec, yet very popular.

Perhaps, for what has always been a protest party, its leader is helping create a 'Quiet Revolution' across Canada and it seems to be a political win. What is disappointing is that Canadians are being denied a sensible alternative to Harper's Conservatives in the process.


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For instance, in what Rex Murphy described as a "government by normal means and mob rule on the streets," the NDP was visibly absent. The Montreal protests that crippled the province and its students needed an eloquent voice in Ottawa as has been the historical tradition of the NDP. While the issue was in the minds of many Quebeckers, the NDP decided to stay out of it and even ordered its many one-time young student activists and now MPs to stay out of the debate.

On the issue of Israel, the NDP via its leader is now reading the same talking points as the government. He has used his stubborn leadership style, rightly or wrongly, to mute anyone from speaking on the Israel file as he had done as an MP when he famously criticized his colleagues from speaking on a 2006 NDP Policy Resolution on Israel/Palestine.

On trade, the NDP now seems to favour free trade and has neglected its stubborn one-time opposition of NAFTA as was championed by the party's beloved veteran leader -- Ed Broadbent more famously during the 1988 Free Trade like federal election. The party is even now a champion of WTO (World Trade Organization) to make global trade the norm rather than the exception in the world.

Former leaders of the NDP have almost always brought a signature principled contribution to Canada's political journey. Tommy Douglas gave Canada Medicare; David Lewis the sacred multiculturalism Canadian policy; Ed Broadbent passionately made human rights his political life's agenda while the late and beloved Jack Layton engaged and empowered the youth while advocating for Canada's less fortunate and the environment.

Thomas Mulcair has instead distanced himself from all this and decided to "'bring the centre to us" while reminding his supporters that he is "not trying to push party away from its core ideas." The fact is he has.

Mulcair has made his party and himself invisible while moving his party so far to the right in the blind pursuit of power, and it is becoming impossible to distinguish it from the Harper Conservatives.

At the end, Canadians are the ones who are ultimately denied the opportunity to have alternatives. I bet Jack Layton would have been disappointed.

For the late beloved leader, he would have settled for continuing to be the "Conscience of the House" rather than sell the soul of the party via a short cut to power.