New Opposition leader Mulcair attacks Tory economy
Newly minted Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair wasted no time in attacking the government on its economic record on Monday, less than two days after he won the NDP's leadership race.
On his first question in Parliament, Mulcair made good on his fiery political reputation and accused the government of mishandling the economy while doing nothing to address unemployment and a shrinking manufacturing sector.
"Thousands of families are in distress, why are they doing nothing?" said Mulcair, who opened his questioning in French.
The Quebec MP also slammed the government on the recent closure of the Electro-Motive plant in Ontario, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited for a photo-op in 2008.
The timing for Mulcair's recent victory is key, as it gives the NDP leader an opportunity to scrutinize the government's 2012 federal budget, which is due Thursday and arrives amid a sputtering economic landscape.
Referring to high unemployment among youth, Mulcair asked: "Will the Conservatives take advantage of the budget to give jobs and hope to our young people?"
While it was Heritage Minister James Moore who was under attack from Mulcair, perhaps the most interesting responses came not from the government, but from Bob Rae, the interim Liberal leader.
While Rae's party placed third in last year's federal election, Rae has done his best to seize the leadership vacuum left by the death of Jack Layton last August. And with former NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel's broken English limiting her efficacy, Rae had won much praise for his boisterous performances of late.
But with the NDP now united behind Mulcair in the House, Rae used his question Monday to shout passionately about the Conservative government's track record.
Last week, CTV News reported on suggestions that Rae was seeking to move up his party's leadership race in order to match Mulcair and his united NDP caucus.
Rae told Power Play that an open leadership race is set for March, 2013. However, he noted that the party could opt to move that date if it chooses.
Still, he said the party has not been hampered by the fact that he serves as only interim leader.
"Frankly, I have got my job cut out for me as the leader for the time being, and we need to move things forward. I don't feel held back when somebody introduces me as the interim leader," he said.
"The title doesn't matter. What matters is the fact that we are moving forward as a caucus and as a party, and that is the big positive thing."
Rae said he would make a decision "in the next few weeks or months" as to whether he would throw his hat into the leadership ring.
Speaking with reporters following question period, Mulcair took questions in French and was confronted about several key issues, including his stance on the oilsands and his relationship with Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
But Mulcair used the enhanced media glare to again accuse the government of creating a "triple whammy" of environmental, social and economic debt.
He added that the government has increased spending on average by six per cent each year "with nothing in return."
Speaking about oil development, Mulcair has occasionally used the term "tarsands," which some industry players believe has negative connotations.
But Mulcair clarified that he uses that term interchangeably with "oilsands," and he reiterated that he is not against development, if it is done in a sustainable way.
On Charest, meanwhile, Mulcair said he has a good working relationship with the premier.
Mulcair famously resigned as Charest's environment minister in 2007 after refusing to sign off on a controversial condo development.
Reflecting on his first day in Layton's old seat in Parliament, Mulcair told CTV Power Play that it was a "very emotional" experience.
He also stressed that his party would not simply criticize the government, but would offer alternatives and "start defining ourselves."
In terms of the economy, which has long been viewed as a Conservative strength, Mulcair said that 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost under their watch.
"They've got good branding on the economy, but were going to start focusing on what they've done wrong," he said.