The pundits are claiming the Trudeau beat Mulcair on Monday in the by-elections in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, as if the battle were between these two. While is it true that the Liberals, under Trudeau held on to both Bourassa in Quebec and Toronto Centre in Ontario, the NDP significantly increased their vote totals.
Nevertheless, there is another very important cultural meme in play in Canada.
While we are nationally ecstatic about our health care system, a single payer model, we nevertheless don't want to be seen as "radical" or as different from the rest of the world, especially from our U.S. neighbours. And, currently the world, including the U.S. has such a strong and toxic right-wing political propaganda machine, Canada is catching cold from the U.S. pneumonia. And the right-wing freeze in the U.S. is analogous to pneumonia, reducing the U.S. government to the ashes of selfishness, mean-spirited budget cuts to social programs, including deep cuts to education, while continuing to pour billions into defence, law and order, national security and all things dedicated to fortification.
The fear of the ruling class has trumped the needs of the poor, the indigent, the homeless and the helpless.
In Canada, although the situation by most estimates is less severe, the gap continues to grow between the have's and the have-not's and the NDP history and purpose is to level the playing field, while the Liberal Party's primary purpose is to seek and to acquire political power, in order to facilitate the opportunity for their own "deep pockets" to exercise power. It is true that during much of the last century, under Liberal administrations, significant advances were made in social equality and social justice. However, like the rest of the continent, the Liberal Party has also shifted to the right, and while Trudeau Jr. sings his chant about support for the middle class, it is little more than another "pop" song playing on the lips of the new leader, equally as vacuous as the non-answers provided by Harper about his knowledge and participation in the Senate expenses scandal.
In Toronto Centre, for example, a seat held by Bob Rae and previous Bill Graham, the electorate is stolid, sedate, erudite and unlikely to make even the slightest noise that could be taken as radical or even pushing the lines of conventionality a little to the left. While Freeland will make a contribution to the Liberal Party fortunes, her NDP opponent, Linda McQuaig, would have provided considerable edge to the cause of levelling the playing field for the poor and the underclass. Liberals would like to believe there is no underclass, and that blind spot hurts both the party and the country. It is the edge to McQuaig's pursuit of equal opportunity that the country needs, not more of the slick elan of the Liberals under Trudeau.
In order to put that "edge" into play, however, Mulcair has his work cut out for him.
While substantial, credible and both sincere and earnest, Joe Clark has demonstrated just how far those qualities will take one in Canadian politics. Sadly, it is true that the rock-star sex appeal is still, perhaps even more, alive and thriving across the country. And for too many, politics is not about policy so much as it is about "style" and image.
Projections of the voters, for or against political leaders, includes a large component of centreville behaviour, never too much this way or that way, and in Canada bland reigns supreme.
Mulcair cannot and never will be bland, while Trudeau and his party have long ago mastered the political art of the chameleon: whatever colour is in vogue, they will present.
It will take the best minds of the best political strategists to create a platform and public message for Mulcair that contains the best of the NDP tradition and the necessary genuflections to public aspirations...and we can only hope those strategists have not been hired by the more affluent other parties, where they could make more money selling a different bottle of soda. We need strategists who are willing to fight for clean water, clean air, and equal opportunity for all, and only the NDP can and will offer that option to Canadians in 2015.