Okay Mulcair, now you’re starting to impress me

thomas mulcair in parliament

To quote Katie Nelson, “When Global uses ‘unreal’ as an adjective you know it’s worth watching!” Yes, the scene in the Canadian Parliament a few days ago can only be described as unreal or rather surreal.

Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the Official Opposition, New Democratic Party (NDP), was trying to get some specifics out of the government about Canadian deployment in Iraq. Instead of responding to Mulcair’s very clear question, Conservative MP Paul Calandra, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary, brought up some statement an NDP staffer had made earlier about Israel.

Mulcair’s initial response, before calling on the speaker to intervene after a second non-answer from the Harper government, was priceless. Watch it for yourself:

While I’ve heard Muclair use sarcasm effectively before, this response impressed me for another reason: he didn’t take the bait.

That wasn’t the case a few months ago. Following a struggle with the NDP base over his initial statements on the assault on Gaza that saw office occupations, and culminated with a sort of mea culpa op-ed in the Toronto Star, a lone MP, Sana Hassainia, quit the party and blamed it on Mulcair’s recent support of Israel.

Instead of a simple statement acknowledging Hassainia’s resignation, Mulcair echoed some of the statements the NDP faithful had been criticizing him for, breaking the party peace he had just regained. He took the bait.

It’s not hard to imagine someone in the Harper war room taking note of that and concluding that if a random MP could get a rise out of the leader by bringing up Israel, they could surely do the same. It’s also not hard to imagine a memo going out saying something like: “If you don’t want to answer a question from Mulcair, bring up Israel, it’s a sore spot!”

If that was their plan, it failed spectacularly this week. It did not result in any NDP in-fighting, but Calandra has become the poster boy for CPC caginess when it comes to serious issues to the point that mainstream media called it unreal. I, for one, really would like to hear an actual answer to that question.

Mulcair learned his lesson. But that’s not the only reason he’s impressed me as of late.

A few weeks ago, after the conservatives refused yet another request for an inquiry into missing and murdered native women, Mulcair promised one within the first hundred days should he be elected Prime Minister. The NDP followed up by forcing a debate in parliament on the issue. Have a look at that, too:

To be fair, Trudeau also wants an inquiry. Honestly, anyone not wanting an inquiry into this is confounding. Trudeau is not prioritizing it, though. The NDP has the lead on this one.

Meanwhile the only thing I see in the news about Trudeau is that he kissed the bride at a wedding, that both of his parents got laid a lot, and that he has a problem with Ezra Levant and Sun News. I honestly don’t think he actually has a problem with them: hate from Sun brings votes on the left.

Sun, along with the rest of mainstream media, is fully on board the Trudeau versus Harper bandwagon, even though very little separates the two candidates policy-wise. Until recently, I didn’t really care, because Mulcair’s NDP wasn’t offering much of an alternative.

Now, that has changed. Now, the NDP is offering a solid alternative to the Harper approach on some issues. I’d love to see Mulcair reverse his position on Energy East, come out strongly for weed legalization, and against Harper’s re-criminalization of sex work, but I accept that he needs to start somewhere and this is a good start.

Many in the mainstream media say that Mulcair is a star in the House of Commons, but loses the soundbite war to Trudeau. Maybe, just maybe, that’s because in parliament, the NDP is given the respect and place in the discourse that should be accorded to the Official Opposition, whereas the media has already bought the Liberals vs. Conservatives angle as they have for years.

I could have been making observations like this months ago, but didn’t really see the point. Now I do.

If Mulcair and the NDP stay on this course and keep fighting the good fights, they will be giving people like me something truly different to vote for.

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