Copying Harper’s debate strategy proves Mulcair is not a leader

Julian Wolfe
August 1st, 2015

As we approach what could potentially be the longest and most expensive election in Canadian history, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has decided his political strategy must be a carbon copy of Harper’s.

The ultimatum on the table is Mulcair will only go to the debates Harper attends and the number of English and French debates will be equivalent. The deadline for final decisions is August 7.

To put the ultimatum into perspective: Mulcair will only go to a debate where a particular candidate chose to go which basically means Mulcair will follow that particular candidate to the debate of that candidate’s choosing – not Mulcair’s. The control of Mulcair’s debate decision is in Harper’s hands, not Mulcair’s.

“I can assure you that we are making decisions on these debates based on what is in the best interest of a robust debate during the federal election campaign.”

Anne McGrath, NDP strategist

With numerous debates lined up, given Harper will only attend one French debate means Mulcair will only attend one English and one French debate of Harper’s choosing – given the NDP stick to their word. This not only shows a lack of willingness to debate, it shows a lack of leadership.

Canadians will be voting for a Prime Minister on October 19 and saying Mulcair is interested in being Prime Minister is meaningless. Why else would he be the leader of a political party in the first place? This statement by the strategist as she explains that the real contest is with Stephen Harper loses even more value when the decision is to follow Harper’s leadership on debates…

The NDP has enjoyed a surge in the polls for the last few weeks, some of which suggesting they are poised to form a minority government. With 66% of Canadians polled looking for a change from a tired government with outdated policies, Mulcair benefitted from the NDP’s perception of being that change. Perception is one thing, actions are another. By following Harper, not only does it show Mulcair’s lack of leadership, it also shows he isn’t the candidate for change.

A man who really wanted change would be able to make his own decisions on what debates to attend. You can argue Mulcair did choose: to only go to debates Harper is attending, but when did Mulcair choose what debates Harper would be attending? When did Harper even blink an eye at the idea that Mulcair would be his opponent? The answer to both questions: not once. A man who can bring change needs to be a leader.

If Mulcair and the NDP really wanted change, they would be able to make their own decisions, would stop trying to frame democracy as a one-on-one match – which was their chief complaint in the Liberal-Conservative history, and more importantly, use his attendance at multiple debates as a strategic tactic to paint Harper as the coward he is and paint Mulcair’s leadership as the necessary guidance to achieve such change.

So what drove this decision? It’s clear the decision would have no effect on the Conservatives other than a neutral or even positive one, given even in the debate to become Prime Minister, Harper is still the leader and Mulcair is still the follower. That speaks volumes on the type of Prime Minister Mulcair may or may not become. But then, you never know, with all the talk of alliances these days, who says Mulcair’s previous dealings with the Conservatives prior to joining the NDP were really over?

The strategic move is not only bad strategy, it is bad politics for a man who wants to be Prime Minister on the agenda of “change.” You can change the wallpaper to any color you want, but as long as the same mentality sticks in the household, the same decisions will be made and the color on the wall means absolutely nothing.

So the questions NDP supporters should really be pondering are:

  • Is Thomas Mulcair such a weak leader that his best strategy is to follow Stephen Harper?
  • Is Mulcair, like Harper, trying to run scared from debates?

The NDP’s ultimatum is to copy Harper’s strategy which shows Harper is in charge and ultimately shows Mulcair is not a leader.

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On Monday, the longest campaign in modern history will come to a close and if current polls are any indication, Canada may be seeing a change in government after 9 years of Conservative rule under the leadership of Stephen Harper. Accountability was his calling card in 2006 and today, accountability may very well be one of the defining reasons for his departure.

In its length, in its cost and in its debate schedule, this election is unusual. The first and possibly only real debate of the campaign ended and here are the highlights of what happened.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper left Rideau Hall this morning with Governor General David Johnston’s approval to drop the writ and Canadians are now officially headed to the polls on October 19. For the first time since fixed election date legislation was brought in by the Conservative government, a fixed election date has been followed.

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