Standing five weeks into the election campaign, there is only one federal leader who has promised to limit the size of government, exalted the virtues of the free market, and talked about the need for a private health care system.
Unfortunately, that leader is Thomas Mulcair … from 15 years ago.
Quebec’s media had a blast last week digging up old footage from Thomas Mulcair’s time in the National Assembly, which seems to put him in a bit of an awkward position. Though he currently leads Canada’s socialist party, his past statements put him further to the right than the 2015 version of Stephen Harper.
Mulcair was a bit of a rebel in his early days with the Quebec Liberal party, comparable to Maxime Bernier’s position in the Conservative party today. He had the freedom to say as he pleased, even if it strayed from the party standard. As an example, Mulcair praised the way Margaret Thatcher’s laissez-faire approach saved Great Britain, saying the same was needed to combat big government in Quebec. This, even hearing it today, is a breath of fresh air in a province where any minor cut to government expenditure leads to massive union protests.
Last Tuesday, another video from 2001 was uncovered by Le Devoir in which the leader of the party that introduced us to nationalized health care said that a Liberal Quebec government would make more room for the free market and corporations in the health sector, reducing people’s taxes. He preferred the invisible hand to “bureaucrats who have never touched [this issue] in their lives.”
All this, of course, makes Mulcair a hypocrite.
Is power the only thing he’s looking for? If he still holds these values at heart, why is he leading a party that advocates the exact opposite?
And why does that make me like him more?
Not everything about Mulcair has changed since then, of course. He is still a fiscally responsible realist who won’t tax the rich, he wants to cut taxes for small businesses, and his probable finance minister, Andrew Thomson, has admitted that cuts will be “inevitable” in some areas to balance the budget. There are some problematic social policy kinks meant to satisfy his base — forcing a $15 minimum wage and copying Quebec’s failed experiment with subsidized daycare are just two examples. It’s not inspiring, but it’s not the hell that many conservatives are bracing for.
All in all, these latest revelations make the likelihood of an NDP government less dire. Much like Harper acts as a left-winger managing a Conservative government, Mulcair would be a neoliberal managing a socialist government. It sort of balances out near the centre in the end — especially if Mulcair continues to rule his party with an iron fist in the manner of the current prime minister.
For anyone mildly conservative, Trudeau is the one to be weary of.
The Liberal war room is likely responsible for reminding the media of Mulcair’s past as they’re the ones who profit the most from disgruntled left-wing voters. Trudeau has gone as far as saying that Mulcair’s pledge to balance the budget is a form of “austerity,” positioning himself to the left of where the NDP once stood.
For Trudeau, a balanced budget is not a priority. His promise to run three more deficits if elected — and more, if conditions are right for it — create a stark new shift in Canadian politics. Many Liberals may now see the NDP as a party of reason, with the old party gone haywire under their new leader. Massive social spending will be Trudeau’s goal, financed by raising taxes on wealthy Canadians and increasing the debt. Growing the economy from the heart outwards, essentially.
If pollster predictions hold true and Mulcair wins a minority government, he’ll lead a very unstable government and need the support of either the Grits or the Tories. For all we know, the party best suited to prop them up, in terms of fiscal philosophy at least, might just be the Conservatives.
Tom Kott is a consultant at HATLEY Strategy Advisors, a Montreal-based public affairs firm.
Original post HERE. Republished with permission from the National Post