While I didn’t manage to get a picture, tonight I did get to meet Thomas Mulcair, leadership candidate for the federal NDP, deputy leader, and Quebec MP.
Mulcair was a polished politician in the small Dentry’s Pub. He managed to shake the several dozen hands a couple times each. He remarked to me that it’s better to introduce yourself twice instead of never.
Once the crowd had assembled and he’d made his first round he gave a brief speech. I recorded it on my phone (I was at a bad angle so I just took audio), and you can listen here:
He emphasized the need to reach out to all Canadians and to present a credible alternative to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
He took a couple questions and answered them all skillfully. One asked his thoughts about fellow contender Nathan Cullen’s suggestion for cooperative nomination meetings. He shot it down arguing that New Democrats can and will be successfully, provided we actually believe in our movement. He was also asked about his thoughts on the Israel-Palestine issue, to which he stated his position is, and always has been, identical to the party’s – one of peace through UN-led negotiations toward agreeable borders. He also rejected starting a Quebec provincial NDP for practical reasons – the party needs to establish roots for the 59 trees that sprouted in May.
I also recorded the questions, but I’m not sure if the audio is as good (the pub was quite noisy), so I’ll likely not post them (unless I magically have time tomorrow to go through them).
Afterward he did another round and I managed to ask him a couple of my own questions.
I asked for his thoughts on the Occupy Movement, to which he responded that he is hoping to get to some of the protests to hear the concerns, but that it’s foolish for any politician to tie themselves too closely at this stage. He argued that the movement is in a precursor stage where it’s likely to lead to something more substantitive (similar to the environmental movement of the 60s).
There was also a brief mention of the need for electoral reform (associated to the discussion about whether the Occupiers need to get out to vote), and Mulcair noted that governments only tend to care about reform when they’re at risk of being on the losing end of the math.
I should mention that Mulcair mentioned that he signed Romeo Saganash’s nomination papers (and vice-versa) and at the meeting he also signed Paul Dewars – although he did make an offhand remark that there were some paper’s he wouldn’t sign. I signed both Mulcair’s and Dewar’s papers, not because I plan on supporting either in the race, but because I support a race with a diversity of viewpoints.
Overall Mulcair spent a little time with everyone, but not a lot of time with anyone. It’s a striking contrast to a memory of mine of Jack Layton sitting at Avenue Pizza in Edmonton after a meeting with some random patrons at the bar (who also happened to be from the UofA Physics department). His goal wasn’t to just get his face out there, but to actually connect with people.
Mulcair was sharply dressed as always (has the man ever not worn suit?) which prompted one lady I sat with at the start of the night to question whether he should have dressed down to meet the average NDP member, similar to how Harper donned a sweater-vest in a desperate to look human. I suggested that while Harper needs to appear casual, the NDP may need to appear more serious, so the suit may not be such a bad choice.
In any case, the event was quite positive, although it didn’t win me over. Mulcair is a strong and smart politician. I do wonder if some of his “opening the tent” rhetoric is being overplayed by the media.
Mulcair is supposed to be back in Vancouver in December for the BC NDP convention, and the Vancouver Quadra NDP association (who hosted tonight’s event) is hoping to have Paul Dewar in town next month. Most leaders should try to make it to Vancouver, as a bulk of the NDP’s members are currently in BC. Any event I can get to, I plan on.