Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Mulcair and the NDP: Solidarity Forever?

Mulcair's position on the Middle East, his relationship with the labour movement, and his views on water exports are making some New Democrats nervous. If he does win an upset victory in Outremont, will his policy differences with the party be contained or cause him to jump ship in the future? This article in the Globe & Mail outlines the challenges and pitfalls Mulcair and the NDP will face in the upcoming Outremont by-election. Here's a preview:

There is one peculiar challenge, though: Outremont is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the country. Last fall, the Israeli ambassador accused the NDP of “aligning itself with terrorists” after the party adopted a motion at a convention in Quebec City that described Israel's military campaign on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon as “drastically disproportionate.”

On this issue, Mr. Mulcair distances himself from his new party. Over the course of a two-hour interview in Outremont, it is the only subject with which he struggles. “My wife's family, like a lot of European Jews, suffered a lot during the war,” he said, offering further details but requesting discretion. “My strong support for Israel shouldn't be interpreted as meaning that I don't realize there are huge problems.”

His position on the Middle East is not the only one that strays from the views of the party's base, which, as last year's convention showed, can tend toward the dogmatic.

Like a school of piranhas devouring a fresh victim, the Canadian left has been picking apart Mr. Mulcair's record.

Discussions on websites such as enmasse.ca, popular with young New Democrats, reveal a great deal of excitement about the star candidate. At the same time, they question whether he is really one of them if he could sit in a Charest cabinet that fought a major battle with the province's unions. His 2004 call for a debate on the bulk export of fresh water to the United States is also raising alarms.

Other observers are also surprised to see Mr. Mulcair join the NDP. “If you asked me before he joined the New Democrats, I would have said he was on the centre-right,” said Alain Noël, a political science professor at the University of Montreal.

In his defence, Mr. Mulcair says he campaigned for NDP candidates in his university days. On bulk water exports, which he points out are already happening, he said he has learned that the issue is too emotional for rational debate.

As for the Charest government's battle with public-sector unions, Mr. Mulcair now says it was a difficult time for him in the cabinet. “It was a very clear decision that we had to do something to clean up public finances and that included the unions taking us on,” he said. “Frankly, it's not the type of thing you're ever comfortable with.”


Julian Benson said...

I don't want to say that this is just a Quebec version of the Paul Summerville debacle..... but I just did.

Uncorrected Proofs said...

The difference is that Summerville never stood a chance of winning.

Julian Benson said...

True. But is that better or worse?