Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mulcair Takes on the West


What started out as musings on the health of Ontario's manufacturing sector has quickly escalated into a full fledged war of words between Tom Mulcair and the western Premiers. It's an important shift in the dialogue, because going to war with the West is a lot different than going to war with the oilsands - after all, you won't find many "save our oilsands" protests in front of Libby Davies' Vancouver East constituency office.

Mulcair picking a fight with Premiers Clark, Redford, and Wall has led to his first patch of negative press since winning the NDP leadership - and rightly so. Calling Premiers who stick up for local industry "messengers of Stephen Harper" (in a tone that makes them sound like a swarm of Nazgul) brings him down to the level of Jim Flaherty, who routinely plays the role of Ontario's leader of the opposition.

I think we can all agree Mulcair shouldn't be disparaging the Premiers on this issue, but it's less clear whether or not this is a shrewd tactical move, or another case of Mulcair not thinking before opening his mouth.

The first thing to consider is the popularity of the people Mulcair is attacking. We know Brad Wall is more popular than God and Alison Redford just pulled off a small miracle in Alberta. However, the third member of this trinity has seen better days and now trails the provincial NDP by 27 points - so it's hard to fault Mulcair for alligning himself with the BC Dippers. Even in Saskatchewan, the fallout from attacking Wall might be minimal, as the provincial and federal NDP received similar shares of the popular vote during elections there last year. Just as there are many western voters who share Mulcair's disdain for the oilsands, there are many western voters who nodded in agreement as Mulcair criticized their premiers.

In the broader picture, the trade-off between votes in the East and votes in the West might explain Mulcair's gambit. To form government, the NDP will need to pick up at least 30-50 more seats next election. Of the 50 ridings the NDP came closest to winning in 2011, just 16 are in Western Canada - moreover, there are only four seats in Western Canada the party won by less than 10% last election, suggesting it will take more than a Twitter feud with Brad Wall to bring Mulcair down.

So there's an argument to be made for concentrating on eastern voters, if you buy that the NDP's road to 24 Sussex bypasses the West. If that's the case, Mulcair's salvo on the oilsands might not be the gaffe its being portrayed as, and it won't be the last time he picks a fight with the western provinces.

Of course, Western Canada will be gaining new seats in 2015, and there's the long game to think about. On that front, Mulcair would be well served learning from the party he hopes to replace. For years the Liberals won elections by scapegoating the West and, in particular, the oil industry. This electoral math equation usually paid off, but in the long run it has left Western Canada a charred dust-bowl for the Liberals, with nothing more than 4 specs of red west of Ontario left on the map.

Even if Mulcair can score a few extra seats in 2015 by playing the regions against each other, it's not a strategy that is likely to pay off for the NDP in the long run.

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39 Comments:

  • Shows his ignorance of Alberta - Harper's messenger from Alberta was and is, Danielle Smith. We knew it, and we rejected them as we'll reject the NDP.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:46 AM  

  • If an NDP government is elected in BC - as seems likely - it may well have pissed people off by the time the next federal election comes around. And Mulcair may end up paying the price for that.

    By Blogger Vancouverois, at 1:02 PM  

  • B.Wall lost my respect coming out so pro-tar/oil. I like a China that isn't a future failed state. Food processing uses vast quantities of fresh water, as does every major Chinese industry. At 1st will get more, then little Himalayan meltwater. This might be good for SK and only SK via farms.
    Occured to me running Canadian interest rates and corporate tax rates inversely is more efficient for us, than alteraing interest rates. Of course so deep in the red we need to jack up all taxes. We whine about taxes but Greece's unemployment is 25% and where we are headed under CPC and only under CPC (maybe BQ too). Anyways, with banks and petro making up 80% of corporate tax revenue...these are very capital intensive industries. So if wage inflation is high and unemployment low, can lower corporate taxes them and raise income taxes. If wage inflation is low and unemployment is high, we can lower income taxes and raise corporate taxes. A nice little lever to keep employment bounded, the way inflation is for some reason bounded at 3%.
    B.Wall: you are a dog murderer!! Won't waste feed on dogs in an AGW future. Kids will have to play with a Japanese robot dog.

    By Anonymous The Keystone Garter, at 2:01 PM  

  • Mr. Mulcair will win the next election even if only by a minority. Frankly the people on Quebec and Ontario are absolutely sick of the Harper right winged oppressive government that is destroying the social safety net of this great nation. The people on Quebec and Ontario are sick and tired of the dirty oil sands destroying the environment and killing our dollar. Quebec and Ontario have paid a dear price so that Harper’s Alberta could benefit allowing a few elite there to get wealthy at the cost of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in eastern Canada.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:22 PM  

  • I really expected something more coast-to-coast-to-coast from Mulcair

    If regionalism proves his stock-in-trade, I'll certainly be disappointed.

    Your Libby Davies example proves, though, that oil sands concerns (and benefits) are NOT even actually a regional issue in the first place.

    I pictured Mulcair pitching a pan-Canadian progressive view, appealing to ALL progressives. So, as George Lucas would say, I have a bad feeling about this.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Vert, at 6:41 PM  

  • I think Mulcair is brilliant.

    He's already got Quebec, and now he's pitting Ontario against the West.

    How will Harper get the 2 out of 3 that he requires to win next election?

    Brilliant.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 6:42 PM  

  • What an arseole

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:51 PM  

  • Mulcair id nothing more than a political opportunist and a coward. I'd dearly love to see him come to Fort McMurray and spout is mealy-mouthed crap here.

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 10:59 AM  

  • YOur wish will come true - he is apparently going to Fort MacMurray next week!

    By Blogger DL, at 11:03 AM  

  • Better call the RCMP to watch for Way Way Up, admitted gun owner, and self appointed judge and jury and possibly executioner.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:30 PM  

  • So I guess Mulcair would be opposed to Ontario developing the Ring of Fire?

    By Blogger Jordan, at 3:17 PM  

  • An admitted "Gun Owner" is that the same as "admitted arsonist?" And you "progressives" wonder why you are ridicluled by rural people and many in the middle class.

    By Blogger Don Mitchell, at 6:20 PM  

  • Jeez, you people are insecure about the oilsands. Methinks you doth protest too much.

    Mulcair was telling the truth when he suggested that extensive resource development in the west has an effect on manufacturing intersts in the east. The conservatives even paid for a study that said much the same thing!

    Was Mulcair "politic" to voice his opinion? Clearly not. That doesn't make him less legitimate; in fact, I thought the reason people distrusted politicians was because they rarely say what they mean, or mean what they say. Now someone speaks up, and JUST BECAUSE IT MAY AFFECT YOUR INTERESTS, you condemn him.

    Make up your mind: do you want mealy-mouthed politicians who never say anything that mind "offend" people, or do you want someone who has the guts to voice unpopular opinions?

    By Blogger Party of One, at 7:11 PM  

  • Which elections did Liberals win by scapegoating the West and the oil industry?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:27 AM  

  • I'm a gun owner?! Damn! How did you dig a turd like that out of my comment?

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 3:30 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 3:30 PM  

  • There's a reason people here won't vote for this klown. Hell, even a lot of die hard union members I know won't touch him.

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 3:35 PM  

  • The next election is a ways away.

    I agree with the gist of the post. This doesn't hurt the NDP and may even help, but its a bad idea to keep repeating it. OK tactics, bad strategy.

    By Anonymous Not an Albertan, at 12:52 AM  

  • Um, Clark is a walking dead person in BC and three-quarters of the population, at least, are willing to tell Alberta to go shove its oil pipeline where the light never shines (hell, that might be the biggest thrill they've had for years). The First Nations aren't letting that damn thing through and they have solid backing from the urban majority for once. So it isn't a matter of "alienating the West." It's "alienating Alberta and possibly Saskatchewan," neither of which count for much in a Federal election. BC is solidly in the federal NDP's corner. Live with it.

    By Blogger sunsin, at 6:54 PM  

  • "The West" is not a synonym for "Conservative/Blue Liberal Premiers in 3 of Western Canada's 4 Provinces".

    By Blogger The Analyst, at 7:05 PM  

  • Oh, I live with the fact that BC is NDP just fine......doesn't bother me any.

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 8:39 PM  

  • Neither the Alberta government nor it's science-hating federal counterpart will succeed by using lies to support their cause. Both Alberta and the Harperites are basing their arguments on the environmental impact of the oilsands on the Jacobs report. It laughingly suggests emissions in the oilsands are not a threat to the environment – but it depends on technologies that are not in wide use in the oil sands. Both governments say Mulcair's comments on Dutch disease pit one region of Canada against another. However, the feds have tried and failed to suppress a report which bears out Mulcair's fears about a high petro-dollar hollowing out the rest of Canada's economy. That makes Alberta and the Harperites the real divisive factor. Using bad science and demonizing critics are time-worn Tory tactics. They may work in Canada, but on a world stage, it just makes us look regressive, uncaring and defensive. When the EU and other foreign bodies kick our butt, we'll have only our governments to blame!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:21 PM  

  • Good thing I plan on selling my over-priced Fort McMurray house before all that happens.

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 9:54 PM  

  • By the time Canadians go to vote it will become apparent to them that the NDP is a rag-tag outfit of Marxists and Quebec seperatists.

    By Anonymous David, at 4:39 PM  

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  • Mulcare and the Dippers offer a one-way ticket to Europe . . . without leaving home.
    Luv the "anonymous" dipper loons . . . they live in a Parallel Universe. In BC Dix may well win . . . people here have very Short Memories . . . but I remember the TOTAL DESTRUCTION IN THE 90's BY THE SOCIALISTS . . . Houses too expensive, wages too high (private sector) or taxes too low? Just elect the dippers . . .

    By Anonymous Dale left coast, at 12:24 PM  

  • Mulcair will never be PM . . . once the man opens his mouth you can see he is a vacuous socialist . . . he has ZERO understanding of all things economic.
    The Dippers will not be able to hold what they have elected in Quebec . . . and with the young Trudeau in line for the Lieberal leadership . . . the dippers Official Opposition status may be short-lived.
    The LAST THING CANADA NEEDS . . . is another PM from Quebec . . . after 4 Quebec PM's in a row . . . we now have some common-sense from Alberta running things.
    The reality is . . . both Quebec and Ontario are broke anyway . . . why . . . a decade of lieberal missmanagement.

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  • What happened to all the gold in our vaults Did Harper give to the Americans?

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  • The problem with the Liberals is too much money. The problem with the Conservatives is way too much money.
    Mulcair is brilliant. He is a leader. He has a soul.
    Give the NDP a chance for Gawd's sake. Can't get any worse.

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