Canada PM Harper’s Secret Weapon: Tom Mulcair

The Associated Press

Canada likes to position itself as the social conscience of the north. Canadians enjoy telling themselves that though they are America’s neighbours (with a ‘u’), they are the good the neighbour, the compassionate, the better neighbour.

Young Canucks like to sew a maple leaf to their MEC backpacks before travelling the world in order to discern themselves from their American counterparts.

Within the construct of that social conscience has been a playful affection for left wing politics. The embodiment of that affection is the New Democratic Party, born of Birkenstock-ideology and policies of rampant taxation and frivolous, intrusive spending. Fortunately, for those of us with a Canadian passport (but no sewn leaves) the NDP rarely find itself in any sort of position of power, relegated to opposition or third party status. The also-ran. The second bridesmaid.

But recent polls put the NDP in a dead heat with the Conservatives, a legitimate threat to Stephen Harper’s reign. With that comes a more detailed investigation into the party and its leader, Tom Mulcair, or as he should be known: Stephen Harper’s Secret Weapon.

For years the Canadian left has been warning whoever was in earshot about Harper’s Secret Agenda. He was going to revisit the abortion conversation. He was going to implement a Christian fundamentalist agenda. He was going to make Calgary the capital and ban Habs jerseys from schools. But that hard swing from electable centre to far right never happened. But those conversations helped veil the secret agenda that is Thomas Mulcair, as he and the NDP become a more legitimate threat to lead, those revelations could be exactly what Stephen Harper needs to split the opposition vote and return to 24 Sussex.

The NDP typically revel in comfortable anonymity, until a decade ago when Jack Layton led the party from near-obscurity to national participant. But Layton was stricken with cancer, and upon his passing Mulcair ascended to the party’s leadership. He seemed NDP enough. He spoke like a socialist. He fought with Harper. He had a beard. But is Mulcair the leftist deity the country’s socially inclined and economically ignorant think he is?

Who is Tom Mulcair?

Mulcair is seemingly perfectly progressive Canadian. He was born in Ottawa, to an Irish father and a French Canadian mother. He comes from privilege, but not so much privilege as to ostracize him from the left, who like their leaders, at least on the surface, to appear humble and poor. His maternal great-great-grandfather was the 9th Premier of Quebec, Honoré Mercier, and a three times great-grandson of the 1st post-Confederation Quebec premier, Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau.

What’s important to note of these family ties is that Mercier was a Liberal Quebec nationalist, and Chauveau was a Conservative. Does the apple fall far from the right leaning tree?

It does not. Mulcair, while in the Quebec Liberal caucus declared his affections for Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing politics. It doesn’t get further right than the Iron Lady, certainly as far away from the NDP’s ideology as Western culture can get. In fact, far enough away to be considered for a job with… Stephen Harper?!?!!

In 2007, Mulcair was to accept a job with the PMO as a stepping-stone to being a Conservative candidate in 2008. The deal broke down over money, something NDPers are supposed to eschew in favour of peace, love, and deficit. This information is nowhere to be found in the NDP’s official texts, and neither does “socialism” mind you, as Mulcair spearheaded the removal of mention of the ideology from the party’s constitution.

Mulcair has been carefully moulded into what the NDP wants of its leader. Somewhere along the line he adopted the diminutive “Tom”, leaning left away from Thomas and towards the colloquial as a populist acolyte should. Tom is the guy who funds your arts organization. Thomas cuts rich folks’ taxes and drills for oil. And as the election trudges on, and the NDP becomes more of a significant force, news of his right-wing leanings have become problematic for the party’s base.

No matter Mulcair’s true leanings, the NDP is a national player, and will participate in the formation of policy in Canada for the foreseeable future. The problem here is that when the NDP does ascend to power, they do irrevocable damage that takes generations to correct (see: Rae, Bob). Mulcair’s hidden right wing leanings could be exactly the revelation that a Harper campaign needs to quash the orange tide.