Nothing says “I’m different than Harper and the Conservatives” more than Tom Mulcair’s unequivocal declaration last night on CBC that, if elected, a New Democratic Government will immediately bring all Canadian troops home from Iraq and Syria.
Committing to ending the bombing, and to working toward a negotiated settlement of the civil war in Syria and stability in Iraq, contrary to the conventional wisdom of many western countries, will either elect the New Democratic leader Prime Minister, or render him a footnote in history. Pledges to make Canada a more fair and just society could be washed away if the Canadian public rejects his promise to withdraw from military action in the Middle East.
“Restoring Canada’s place on the world stage,” as Mulcair sees it, is not only dependent on his leading government action on the global issue of climate change and global warming as he has promised. It also depends on taking positions consistent with decisions like the one made by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien to stay out of the 2003 war on Iraq misconceived and miscalculated and premised as it was on faulty intelligence and George W. Bush’s machismo administration.
October 19, the date of the Canadian election, could well spell the termination of the Harper government and the tenure of its leader, Stephen Harper. Certainly not a warm and fuzzy personality, dubbed a control freak, and even acknowledging “I am not perfect” in his CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge, Harper has put a large footprint on the government in Ottawa: emphasizing stiff sentences, more prisons, mandatory sentences, friction even fractiousness with First Nations, separation from the provincial and territory leaders, gutting environmental protections, turning a deaf ear to calls for an open door for additional refugees from Syria and Iraq and other African countries, lower taxes for oil and gas corporations, promotion of all pipe lines on both north and south sides of the 49th parallel, and then boutique tax cuts for targeted ‘conservative’ (wealthy) voters who might seek piano or ballet lessons for their children.
Mulcair, while fervently nudging his party to the centre of the political spectrum to moderate public opinion that the party is too radical, underlining party history as provincial governments with the best “balanced budget record”, and being extremely careful not to express either radical opinions or to use inflamed language, is continuing to monitor a slight lead in most opinion polls, but not yet enough to assure a majority government. Meanwhile, his opposition opponent, Liberal Justin Trudeau, manages to garner headlines for social policy announcements like the one he delivered yesterday pouring millions into public housing and beginning the effort to end homelessness in Canada.
Mulcair will have to demonstrate more “expansive” and resonating ideas like his $15/day day care over the remaining five weeks of the campaign if he is to be permitted the keys to 24 Sussex on October 20. Prisoner rehabilitation, a significant level of federal support for post-secondary education through tuition fee cuts, a provincial-federal conference on health care that seeks to inaugurate a pharmacare inclusion, like the one announced by Green Party leader Elizabeth May yesterday, and a commitment to a specific reduction in carbon emissions, one that both corporate and international monitoring agencies can applaud and uphold, a restoration to the role of parliamentarians, moving power out of the PMO and Cabinet, without bruising their legitimate responsibility to lead, and putting federal resources into research into negotiating and mediation towards a global commitment to a world less reliant on hard power....these are some of the potential layers in a vision that would elevate the NDP to a party committed to both big ideas and effective and efficient governance.
Everyone agrees that this is a pivotal election, if the legacy of the Harper years are to be moderated, if not completely reversed. The economy is not the only issue for government, and it is supposed to be the servant and not the master of government policy. The Canadian public is watching and waiting, not for a knock-out blow that will render Harper unconscious on the mat, but for a significant proposal to raise both our hopes and our aspirations, beyond what Mulcair has so far offered.
We know the party and its leader are both capable, and we also know the calendar is ‘ticking’....and we will be watching in anticipation for the final and convincing call to put Mulcair into the Prime Minister’s residence.