I’m glad Thomas Mulcair won the leadership of the NDP Saturday. He has the best shot at retaining at least some of the party’s beachhead in Quebec. He’s said to be tough and politically shrewd, both of which he’ll need to be when dealing with the wily Stephen Harper. He clearly plans to edge the party toward the centre, ala Darrell Dexter and other successful NDP premiers, and that’s a good tactic when facing a government of right wing ideologues.
But I’m not without a few qualms, including Mulcair’s reputation for carrying grudges, and his occasional bone-headed statements on foreign policy, including his knee-jerk support for right-wing Israeli policies that pose a danger to Israel and the world.
My qualms are not eased by Mulcair’s silly, and thus far unexplained, spat with CBC Radio’s English service. Mulcair boycotted English CBC Radio throughout the campaign and in the days since. He refuses to explain the boycott, or even own up to it, but his rejection of interview requests is too consistent to be happenstance. If anyone else knows what stuck in his craw, I haven’t heard the explanation.
Perhaps Mulcair has been impressed at how successfully Harper buffaloed the national press corps by treating it with contempt. On CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition, Francine Pelletier lamented the gallery’s failure even to protest Harper’s continuing refusal to hold news conferences.
I don’t like having a prime minister who bullies the press. I don’t like press gallery reporters who respond like whipped spaniels. And I won’t take warmly to an NDP leader who is tempted to follow the same recipe.
I won’t presume that Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, poster child for the Harper government’s plan to kill the long gun registry, was purposely being nasty when she referred to citizens who oppose the registry as “good salt-of-the-earth people,” “upstanding citizens who work hard,” and parents whose children “probably aren’t involved in gangs in the streets.” But I wish she would take a moment to consider how offensive her characterizations are.
They’re upstanding citizens who work hard. They take their kids and grandkids out hunting and shooting and those kids, by the way, probably aren’t involved in gangs in the streets.
These are good salt-of-the-earth people and for so long they have had really nobody in government who has been able to make any changes on their behalf. So it really was very gratifying to know how thankful they were and how much it meant to them to have someone who was going to be promoting good policy, policy that was fair and wasn’t targeting them.
By dividing Canadians into “good salt-of-the-earth people” vs. unnamed others, the Harperites are borrowing yet another unwelcome page from the US Republican Party’s noisome playbook.
Personally, I find guns creepy, and I believe the danger of having them around far outweighs the good some people see in them. But I feel no great stake in the long gun registry, which was a badly conceived and atrociously implemented indirect attack at a problem politicians lacked the gumption to tackle head on. I’m ambivalent about ending it, but it’s a repulsive lie to suggest that one side of the debate has a lock on worthy citizenship — or even that some citizens are intrinsically more worthy than others.
There are plenty of good people, and no shortage of arseholes, on both sides of this issue.
By the same token I won’t be joining the chorus of indignation that has greeted the “it gets better” video cobbled together, somewhat ineptly, by a group of Conservative MPs in response to the suicide of a gay Ottawa teen.
Yes, some Conservatives have been slow to shed bigoted ideas about homosexuality that were the norm in Canada only a few short years ago. Yes, as MP Scott Brison pointed out, the Conservative caucus has fought against such advancements in gay rights in Canada as pension benefits and the right to marry.
But the fact they are now climbing aboard the “it gets better” bandwagon marks a remarkable political watershed. The generous interpretation would be that the MPs were simply moved by the human tragedy of a promising teenager taking his own life because of the cruel treatment he faced as a gay boy. In the cynical view, this was a cold Conservative Party calculation that Canadian public opinion has fetched up firmly on one side of this issue, and the party had best get on board.
I incline to the former, but either way, it shows that those least inclined to accept equal treatment for people of all sexual orientation have now realized the debate is over in Canada. Tolerance won.
It’s about time.
(The National Post’s Chris Selley goes overboard with the argument, and lets his CPC partisanship show, but on the basic point, I find myself in rare agreement: “The fact its supporters cut across political lines is a benefit, not a drawback.”)