Mulcair's budget response separates Quebec, Canada
Published Friday, March 30, 2012 6:12AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:53AM EDT
OTTAWA - Thomas Mulcair may insist that his political universe doesn't revolve around Quebec, but it was hard to tell from his response to Thursday's federal budget.
Responses, plural, to be more accurate.
The freshly minted NDP leader issued two news releases slagging the budget - one aimed specifically at Quebecers, the other at Canadians generally.
It wasn't that there were budget measures that applied uniquely to Quebec, or that Mulcair had anything particularly different to say to Quebecers. The message in both releases was essentially the same.
"Stephen Harper promised to protect health care funding and never even mentioned his plan to cut old age security. Now, he is putting Quebecers' retirement security and primary health care in peril with these reckless cuts," Mulcair said in a release entitled, "The Conservative Budget: No Relief for Quebecers."
"Stephen Harper promised jobs and growth but delivered reckless cuts," said the release aimed at the rest of the country, entitled, "Conservative Budget Slashes Health Care, Pensions."
The two releases were issued four minutes apart, a half hour after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty rose in the House of Commons to present his latest budget.
A spokesman for Mulcair said the leader would be issuing other "regional" releases about the budget but even by midnight Thursday, none had materialized.
The budget was the first major political event for Mulcair since he was crowned NDP leader last Saturday. New Democrats elected the Montreal MP in large part because he was seen as the candidate best able to maintain the party's newfound base in Quebec, which delivered 59 NDP seats in last May's election, vaulting the party into official Opposition status for the first time in its 51-year history.
Cultivating the Quebec base is Job 1 for Mulcair. But, judging by rival parties' reaction to his dual budget releases, he'll have to tread carefully to avoid accusations of pandering to the province.
"Hard to understand why the official Opposition seems to have difficulty speaking with one, clear, national voice," said interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.
Rae detected the start of a possible pattern, noting that the NDP voted Wednesday against an "innocuous" Conservative private member's bill which encouraged Canadians to fly the national flag.
"I couldn't understand why," he said.
Andrew MacDougall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's communications director, made a point of stressing that the budget is intended to "benefit all Canadians."
"We speak with one voice to all regions of the country."