Does the “government in waiting” support the protests in Quebec?

Thomas Mulcair was elected leader of the New Democrats just a few short weeks ago and so far, he has had a two-fold strategy: to appear closer to the mainstream centre than most would have characterized the NDP in the past, and to hold NDP gains in Quebec by speaking to that province’s issues often to the expense of growth for his party in the rest of Canada.

For Mulcair, support of the radical student movement in Quebec is definitely not in his strategic interests. The majority of Quebecers do not support the nightly protests in Montreal and few believe the protesters are primarily motivated by access to education. The student protest phenomenon in Quebec is neither representative of mainstream values nor of Quebec as a people.

Therefore, cracks in his caucus showing support for student demos in Quebec should cause the NDP leader concern. It is not yet clear if he has roped in his caucus and staff or if he will continue to let them show their true colours.

For example, here is NDP MP Dany Morin’s recent Facebook profile picture:

A story about Morin’s support was written in Le Quotidien,

The MP for Chicoutimi-Le Fjord Dany Morin supports students from the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) in their fight against rising tuition fees. On a personal level, however, while the New Democratic Party (NDP) for now refuses to interfere in the matter.

 

Dany Morin participated in the campaign “Me and my red square” of the Movement of General Student Associations UQAC (MAGE-UQAC), this week. He has been photographed with red square emblem adopted by the student movement in its fight against rising tuition fees announced by the Government of Quebec.

What about NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault?

A press release on his website states,

The member for Sherbrooke Pierre-Luc Dusseault gives his support to the student movement of November 10 and will attend the event in Montreal this afternoon.

 

“It is essential to maintain and improve access to postsecondary education as students request today,” said Dusseault, who was studying political science at the University of Sherbrooke before his election on May 2nd, “What we try for Quebec has served for decades as a model for other educational systems elsewhere in Canada,” said the member for Sherbrooke.

Here’s another release from Dusseault after rioting occurs in conjunction with student demos in Quebec,

I wish to express my support to the will of students and students who demonstrate today in Sherbrooke to improve their financial situation and accessibility to university. As MP for Sherbrooke, I can assure you that the New Democratic Party supports your legitimate claims and requires the federal government to act, in accordance with the jurisdiction of the Quebec government to mitigate the increase tuition.

Here was NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice’s Facebook profile picture for a while,

NDP MP Anne Minh Thu Quach wrote on her Facebook,

During the demonstration outside the Valleyfield College this morning. I spoke out in solidarity for the right to accessible education, respect for law strike and the respect for democracy.


With students at the College this morning! Beautiful energy!

Anne Minh Thu Quach: Despite the cold, several students campaigned passionately that morning for the right to education available! Congratulations to all! They will stand all morning at the College this week! Encourage them if you can! Bring your drums and make them dance to keep warm! ;)

 

Anne Minh Quach: Thu @ Rosh: Thanks for the praise. I act according to my values ​​and my ideals. Several NDP MPs also support students in their approach. Moreover, we have a deputy spokesman in post-secondary education in Quebec. This is Matthew Dube. It also advocates the creation of a federal transfer to provinces and territories that would target post-secondary education in order to provide affordable access to students. @ Louis Charles: That, in compliance with federal and provincial powers. Much like it is already healthy.

 

Anne Minh Thu Quach: This is a matter of political choice and social choice. I believe that there is a more just, equitable and socially rewarding for supporting our education system in making it a simple product consumption.

And what about Thomas Mulcair, how is he handling this issue in his province in balance with being a national leader? And how is our national media covering the issue and how the NDP caucus is reacting to it?

The CBC, um, reports,

May 23, 2012

 

Earlier this spring, the Ottawa media was at pains to find any federal MP interested in saying much about either the policies or the politics driving the mass student protests across Quebec.

 

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, whose party represents the majority of Quebec’s federal seats (including several held by student-aged MPs), brushed off questions, saying the student tuition battle was “first and foremost a matter of provincial jurisdiction.”

 

(With yesterday’s intervention — and now funding, too — from labour groups outside Quebec, it will be interesting to watch the NDP generally and Mulcair specifically walk this fine line on the dispute, especially with the leader’s own personal history as a former Charest cabinet minister.)

Christy Clark’s missed opportunity

Tom Mulcair has had a busy week. In his first real outing on the national stage on any policy issue of pan-Canadian importance he chose to entangle energy, regions, the manufacturing sector, and the environment. Melange became malaise as Mulcair designed his prognostication to polarize.

In short, according to Mulcair, manufacturing jobs in central Canada suffer from a high dollar caused by energy exports. Exploiting the oilsands in Alberta and building pipelines to ship processed bitumen south and west is boosting the strength of the dollar. Mulcair calls it ‘Dutch Disease’.

Though without a reasonable diagnosis or plan for treatment, his strategy is quite transparent. The NDP has a tenuous hold on the seats from what many have called an accidental victory for the party in Quebec. Showing up as Quebec’s defender is a role conceded within the last decade by the federal Liberal Party, and Mulcair is digging in, and pouring the concrete to reinforce the foundation.

The NDP leader’s wedging from Outremont was a welcome opportunity for western premiers, whom Mulcair dismissed as “messengers” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall warmed up his twitter and Facebook accounts to throw haymakers in defence the prairie province’s resource extraction industry.

For Wall, whose party captured 64.2% of the popular vote in the last provincial election, standing up for his province was more of a pleasure than a necessity, as his main opponents in the Saskatchewan NDP are lagging far behind.

Moving west, Alberta’s newly elected majority Premier Alison Redford — comfortably settling without much concern for imminent electoral survivability — passively mustered that Mulcair’s comments were “divisive and ill-informed”.

Yet, westward still, where we see a Premier in the fight for her political life in BC, with a surging NDP topping 50% in provincial polls, with an economy fixed firmly in the resource sector pipelines ready, it’s mostly quiet. Christy Clark’s finance minister did dismiss the “ignorant” remarks of Tom Mulcair, and the premier did call Mulcair’s position “goofy”, however, she has been absent from the province on a trade mission overseas and comparatively absent on the issue.

Resource sector jobs are inextricably linked to the BC economy. There have been talks or rebranding Clark’s party to recapture the pro-business and pro-development segments of the successful coalition that has kept her party in power. A perfect opportunity was presented to allow Clark to emerge as the most vocal defender of Western interests. Clark wasn’t just weak on brand, she was largely off-grid.

The federal NDP leader is making shrewd if cynical strategy dividing regions against each other but in the end it will likely pay political dividends for him. The other winners in this dance have been the Premiers with the least to gain while Premier Clark — facing a desperately dire political situation at home — has missed her chance to enrich her electability from this latest entanglement.

Asked and answered

Here is the new leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair in his first Question Period as leader of the opposition,

Questions about middle-class jobs. That was only a few days ago.

This morning, Statscan had welcome news for Canadians,

OTTAWA – After months of stagnant or even falling employment, Canada’s economy began churning out jobs again last month — and in a big way — adding 82,300 workers to the labour force.

The eye-popping gain, almost all in full-time work, was about eight times economists’ expectations and dropped the unemployment rate two notches to 7.2 per cent.

Of those numbers, 70,000 of those jobs are full-time.

Of course, if the NDP had their way their would sap the Canadian economy of its ability to attract investment and capital.

Anyhow, Thomas Mulcair’s NDP released a new ad this morning as well. Mulcair promises to build a more green and prosperous economy. Unfortunately for him, today was not the best of days to release an ad contrasting his economic vision with that of the real economy.

NDP convention day 1

A faithful correspondent sends the following from the field.

Thoughts about the by-elections

Repeating my bit from Macleans.ca, just for the record:

“Earthquake in Quebec.

“Stephane Dion fails his first electoral test as Liberal leader as the Grits lose a safe Quebec seat.

“Stephen Harper becomes the buffer against separatism in Quebec, a role traditionally attributed to the Liberals. Where dominoes fall in Quebec, vote-rich Ontario takes notice.

“The NDP picks up only their second seat in Quebec history. Does this represent a realignment on federalism in Quebec along the lines of left and right as we saw in the Quebec provincial election?”

Further to that point, Jack Layton’s leadership is secure for at least another two years. The man from Montreal promised to deliver seats in Quebec. He delivered one, but he’s got momentum. This Mulcair fellow may however be the MP that replaces Layton as leader.

From most accounts, Stephane Dion is a nice guy. From the couple of times we’ve crossed paths and from what I’ve been able to observe, the man is a class act. However, if what is being reported in Outremont is true and there’s a movement afoot to undermine his leadership, it’s time to either bring down the hammer Chretien/Martin-style, fade away or, or… something. Unfortunately for him, with party unity still a real issue, and no easy option presents itself. Before the ballots were even counted, the truth came out last night: in the Quebec by-elections, this nice guy finished “last”.

This certainly plays well for Stephen Harper and he is ahead on two majority elements today: Dion’s failing leadership and the redefinition of federalism in Quebec. While Quebeckers are rejecting Mr. Dion’s strong centralizing vision of the federation (even though he denied this characterization of Liberal federalism last night), nationals from la belle province are embracing Mr. Harper’s respect for regional identity and power. Further indication of this can be seen in the falling Bloc numbers. As I stated above, we may see a reconfiguration of Quebec politics along left and right rather than federalist/separatist as in the past. Progressive-minded Quebeckers that voted for the left-wing Bloc are realizing a real option in Jack Layton’s NDP, while the rest are electing to choose Conservative government MPs and a new respect for Quebec’s place in a united Canada. The end-game of this in the rest of Canada is of course to cut the ballot left and right, between the policy-principled NDP and Conservative parties, wedging the Liberals out.