Mulcair targets Tories as NDP poll numbers surge
John Size, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, April 15, 2012 10:41PM EDT
Newly anointed federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair believes his party is well positioned to form the next government when Canadians cast their ballots in just over three years.
And, a series of recent polls that show the NDP leading in Quebec and in a statistical tie with the Conservatives in national support appear to back Mulcair's assertion.
But support is lagging in Ontario where the party won only 22 of the 106 available seats in the country's most-populous province.
"My primary obligation is to reach out beyond the NDP's traditional base, to try to rally all progressives across Canada under the NDP banner," Mulcair told CTV's Question Period Sunday.
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."
Mulcair said his party still has to convince people that "we're capable of strong, competent public administration," a perception he said has held the party back in the past.
He also shut down the idea of the NDP joining with the Liberals to take on the Conservatives in the next election.
"The Liberals have for generations flashed left and turned right . . . they signed Kyoto (Protocol) for public relations purposes and went on to have the worst record in the world," Mulcair said.
"They (Canadians) want a government that can be believed, they want a party that's actually going to do the types of thing that we've talked about for years in this country that we're not doing."
But Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau said the NDP's recent bump in the polls is merely a temporary blip.
"The reality is Quebecers are looking for a strong alternative that they connect with who can replace Stephen Harper in the next election," he told CTV's Question Period.
With three years to go before an election, Trudeau said he can already see the NDP isn't ready to form a government.
A recent Forum Research poll pegged the number of people in Quebec who will either vote for the NDP or are leaning that way with Mulcair as leader at 41 per cent.
The Conservatives trailed badly in the province, where their 14 per cent support was only one percentage point more than the Green Party. The Liberals under interim leader Bob Rae were at 16 per cent.
The Bloc Quebecois was virtually wiped in the May 2011 election, but that poll found the party retains the support of 22 per cent of electors in Quebec.
Nationally, according to results of two other recent polls, Mulcair's New Democrats are in a statistical tie with Prime Minister Harper's ruling Conservatives.
A Harris-Decima survey taken within 10 days of the NDP leadership convention showed support for the party surging.
The Conservatives led with 34 per cent and the NDP chasing them at 32 per cent. The Liberals sat at a stagnant 19 per cent (the same as election day) and the Bloc at six.
A Leger Marketing poll taken at about the same time had the NDP and Conservatives at 33 and 32 per cent respectively, with the Liberals still trailing at 19 per cent.
High support in Quebec is driving up the New Democrats' national numbers, the polls showed.
The party recently launched a television ad campaign outside of Quebec that portrays Mulcair with a softer touch, in contrast to his reputation as an aggressive, gritty, in-your-face politician.
But Mulcair embodied the latter image at a meeting of the Ontario NDP in Hamilton Sunday afternoon, where he lashed out at the Conservatives for cutting food inspectors and other public service jobs.
"We had people die in Canada a couple years ago (from tainted meats)…and now they're cutting back on food inspections," Mulcair said in his speech to NDP members.
He also criticized the government's changes to Old Age Security benefits, saying the Tories are "not only dishonest, but they play Canadians for fools."
"Over the next couple of years, as we start taking on Stephen Harper in an even more detailed and structured manner, we'll start defining him and his mistakes to the Canadian voting public as we prepare for the 2015 election," Mulcair said to cheers from the crowd.
"We'll start doing to him what he's always done to us."