New Democratic Party of Canada leader Tom Mulcair. (photo from Tom Mulcair’s office)
“I think the values of the community that you’re writing for are very similar to the social values of the NDP historically, and I think that’s a strong connection that we have,” New Democratic Party of Canada leader Tom Mulcair told the Independent in a phone interview last week.
He added that his wife Catherine’s “family connection means that I’m the only person in this race who has a deep understanding of the Jewish community and of its history, and I’ll always be a strong stalwart based on that understanding.”
Even before the election campaign started, Mulcair always has been clear in his support for Israel.
“My position is very comfortable within the NDP,” he said, “because the party’s position has, for a long time, been in favor of a two-state solution. Essentially, we believe we have to be working with partners in the Middle East, in particular, in Israel and Palestine, within a framework of respect for UN resolutions and international law, that’s important. And, we always talk about working towards peace in the region, starting from a base where it has to be mutually agreed borders and, frankly, everyone free from attack of any kind: peace and security, in other words, within established and negotiated borders.”
He defended his strict enforcement of this view, which has included the dismissal of candidates who hold alternate opinions.
“I’ve tightened the reins in making sure people respect our position, and I think that that’s the key thing,” said Mulcair, adding that the NDP is “still the only party political party in Ottawa to have ever had a Jewish leader, in David Lewis [federally] and, of course, in Ontario, Stephen, Lewis’ son. And I’ve had a chance to visit Israel a couple of times and look forward to going back. I daresay that I’m the only leader in this campaign … who can count family in Israel, as well.”
“I think that free trade with a democracy is a good thing. We also backed the trade agreement with Jordan because we know that it’s also a very strong voice for stability and peace in a very tough region with a lot of problems.”
With respect to the expansion of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement earlier this year, Mulcair said, “I think that free trade with a democracy is a good thing. We also backed the trade agreement with Jordan because we know that it’s also a very strong voice for stability and peace in a very tough region with a lot of problems.
“As you know, the NDP takes a pretty strong view that free-trade agreements have to represent dealings with countries that have values similar to ours, and that’s why in both cases we had no problem with it.”
The NDP also has no problem with the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) nuclear deal with Iran.
“I think that the P5+1 deal shows that diplomacy can achieve real results even after decades of hostility,” said Mulcair, who described himself as “very clear-eyed about the Iranians,” noting that the antisemitism there “is at a level rarely seen in the world today.”
He said, “I don’t have any illusions about what I’m dealing with … no Israeli government can ignore the threat of a nuclear Iran…. At the same time … as long as it is enforced rigorously, the deal shows the possibility of making sure that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are hemmed in.”
About security closer to home, and specifically Bill C-51, Mulcair said, “I think that it’s a question of approach and priorities. Don’t forget Mr. [Stephen] Harper’s approach is always about stark, false choices. He would have you believe, for example, that a government has to choose between the economy and the environment. Of course, that’s a false choice; you have to do both. He would have you believe that you either keep your communities safe or you respect your rights or freedoms. Well, the prime minister’s job is to do both: respect Canadians’ rights and freedoms, and keep communities safe. So, C-51 is a breach with that.”
Offering an example from the party’s history in balancing security and freedoms, Mulcair noted, “The NDP, you might recall, is the party that had the courage politically to stand up in 1970 against the imposition of the War Measures Act that put hundreds of Canadians in jail without trial, without accusation, and the NDP had the courage to stand up against that.
“When Mr. Harper came in with Bill C-51, I was told that I was being foolhardy to oppose it, that the vast majority of Canadians were in favor of it. Well, you know what? I don’t take that as the starting point in these issues. I am more than willing to stand up to Stephen Harper when he’s compromising Canadians’ rights and freedoms, and we did that. We did that with an articulate stance that explained to Canadians why it was a mistake, and you know what? At the end of that process, most Canadians agreed with us, so I’m proud of that.
“There are things that can be done here in Canada to help fight some of the situation there,” he said, referring to the conflict in Syria, as well as others in the region. “There are a couple of concrete things that I think Canada can and should be doing.
“First of all, Canada is the only country in NATO not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty. Well, that’s something that’s easy to fix, and that can help stop the flow of arms to some of those conflicts right now.
“Deradicalization is entirely absent from Bill C-51 and that is, again, a mistake. Most of our partners in the world who are dealing with these issues realize that the flow of foreign fighters into those regions is one of the biggest problems and, instead of coming to grips with that, Mr. Harper completely ignores the problem.”
“There’s also an important element of deradicalization. And, again, Mr. Harper just doesn’t know how to get this right. For example, he doesn’t talk about going into houses of worship, as you hear President [Barack] Obama talk about. What Mr. Harper will talk about, specifically, are mosques. Now, of course, in that case, he’s finger-pointing a single community. That’s a mistake. Deradicalization is entirely absent from Bill C-51 and that is, again, a mistake. Most of our partners in the world who are dealing with these issues realize that the flow of foreign fighters into those regions is one of the biggest problems and, instead of coming to grips with that, Mr. Harper completely ignores the problem.”
Other problems that Harper has ignored, or about which he has been mistaken, according to Mulcair, concern the budget and jobs. The NDP’s approach to these issues, including its focus on the middle-class, has drawn some criticism that the NDP has strayed from its roots – a point with which Mulcair disagrees.
“We’ve been really clear all along, especially under my leadership, that Canada wants a government that knows how to deal with the big issues of the day in the interest of the population,” he said. “When we [the NDP] were in power in Saskatchewan, we ran 17 consecutive balanced budgets because we had taken over a province that was bankrupt after years of Liberal rule…. After those balanced budgets, we were able to bring in free, universal, public medical care – that was an NDP priority.
“This time around, I’m talking about the importance of bringing in quality, affordable, maximum-$15-a-day child care, and we’re going to do that on the basis of a balanced budget. There are some who would say, well, that’s not a very social-democratic thing, but if you look at the history of the NDP, we have a history of being very prudent public administrators. We know that we have that burden on us – that we’re always going to have to be the ones who have to be the most prudent because, if we’re not, people will judge us more harshly than the others.
“Some of the other parties are taking a different approach,” he continued. “Mr. Harper talked a good game but ran up $150 billion in new debt while he was in power. Mr. [Justin] Trudeau is promising to spend at least $10 billion a year more than what he takes in and, in the fourth year, he’s going to start cutting with, quote, everything will be on the table, in terms of cuts – that was the exact quote from Mr. [John] McCallum when he was asked how he was going to be able to cut $6.5 billion in the fourth year of his budget. So, that’s where the Liberals are, that’s where the Conservatives are.”
“Economically, we’re talking about balanced budgets, but we also want to create opportunities for good-paying jobs. There were 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost on Mr. Harper’s watch, and he wants to kill off tens of thousands more with this recent trade deal.”
Mulcair said the NDP are prudent administrators in other areas, as well. “I have a strong personal track record as a former environment minister as a strong enforcer of environmental legislation and I’m strong on principle on those things,” he said. “Economically, we’re talking about balanced budgets, but we also want to create opportunities for good-paying jobs. There were 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost on Mr. Harper’s watch, and he wants to kill off tens of thousands more with this recent trade deal,” meaning the Trans-Pacific Partnership. On Oct. 5, the 12 countries involved, including Canada, reached an agreement, which still has to be ratified by each country’s parliament.
“On the environment, on the economic issues, on social issues, we’re very different from the other two parties who, more often than not, are of one mind,” Mulcair said, giving three examples.
“Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Harper agreed with tens of billions of dollars of tax reductions for Canada’s richest corporations – we disagree, we’re going to start making them pay their fair share.
“We disagree with the Keystone XL Pipeline. We think that you don’t export your natural resources raw. Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau are of one mind, they think that it’s a good idea to send 40,000 Canadian jobs to the U.S. – we disagree.
“We’ve had a different approach on C-51. Mr. Trudeau was afraid of Mr. Harper. He said at the University of British Columbia that he was too afraid of Mr. Harper to stand up for what he thought was the right thing to do in that case. Well, I think that that’s sad, and I think that Mr. Trudeau has shown a lack of leadership and, frankly, a lack of experience.”
While the NDP would increase the corporate tax rate, its platform includes “supporting innovation and investment in companies.” When asked if this was not just a different way of subsidizing business, Mulcair responded, “No. For example, the Conservatives have continued to subsidize companies in the oil patch. We will remove subsidies. What we will do is bring back certain innovation tax credits because we know that the manufacturing sector is, and can be, a hub for innovation and technological jobs in the future that will be knowledge-based.
“We’ll also propose a small-business tax cut, so we’ll bring their taxes down from 11[%] to nine, which we think is a smart way of stimulating the creation of jobs by job creators because small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada create more new jobs. We don’t shy away from saying that government can play an active role in creating the conditions for the private sector to create jobs.”
“This is the first time in Canadian history that we actually have a choice. For 148 years, we’ve been told we have no choice but to alternate. When we get tired of the Liberals and the sponsorship scandal, we’re supposed to go back to the Conservatives. We get tired of the Conservatives and the Senate scandal, we’re supposed to go back. This time, the first time, there is a choice.”
Looking ahead to the last days of the campaign, Mulcair said, “This is the first time in Canadian history that we actually have a choice. For 148 years, we’ve been told we have no choice but to alternate.” For example, “When we get tired of the Liberals and the sponsorship scandal, we’re supposed to go back to the Conservatives. We get tired of the Conservatives and the Senate scandal, we’re supposed to go back. This time, the first time, there is a choice.
“For the first time in Canadian history, the NDP is forming the Official Opposition, we’re seen as a government-in-waiting. We’re doing great across the country but we’ve got very strong support in certain regions that are going to allow us to form a government, and we know that.
“B.C. is a good example of a province where we’re doing super well,” he said. “I just had an event there yesterday morning that showed me that the energy and the strength of the team and the campaign that we’re running are resonating … so we’re going keep that going.”
The Independent has interviewed Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (July 31), Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney (Sept. 18) and Green party leader Elizabeth May (Oct. 9). The federal election is on Oct. 19.