Sunday, April 15, 2012

On speculative advances

Somehow most of the discussion of Thomas Mulcair's Question Period appearance this morning seems to have missed what strikes me as the most important point. So let's take a closer look at how his message has evolved from the leadership campaign - and how it figures to position the NDP to form government in 2015.

At first glance, Mulcair's answer in response to a question focused on the possibility of a coalition government in 2015 might not seem like a particularly strong one:
Mulcair said the party will be running candidates in all 338 federal ridings (adjusted with new additions) in the next election, otherwise the party would be conceding territory to the Conservatives.

"Anything beyond that is pure speculation," he said. "My goal is to form an NDP majority government and with the types of polls we're seeing now Canadians are rallying to us."
But there's a rather significant difference between the new declaration that it's too early to say whether Mulcair would consider a coalition, and Mulcair's earlier statement that a "no" to any such possibility was "categorical, absolute, irrefutable and non-negotiable. It’s no. End of story. Full stop."

In effect, merely in recognizing that any talk of a post-election coalition will depend on the circumstances at the time, Mulcair is taking a more cooperative line than the leaders of the Official Opposition in the previous two elections. Which means that the NDP will preserve at least some of its hard-earned reputation as the party most willing to work pragmatically toward progressive goals.

Mind you, the statement that we'll need to see what happens doesn't serve as quite the strong defence of cooperation that I'd most like to see. But it does open the door for a neat contrast against Libs past and present - allowing Mulcair to say he'll consider working with the Libs and others toward common goals, while highlighting just what those goals are for the NDP. And if the Cons decide to follow up with another bizarre anti-cooperation crusade that pushes Mulcair to make stronger statements about the importance of working together rather than being as insular and narrowly-focused as Harper and company, then the result for the NDP figures to be all the better.

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