Tom Mulcair and sister Deborah fire up NDP faithful in Vancouver

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      The national NDP road show touched down in Vancouver today with a noisy Tom Mulcair rally at the Westin Bayshore Hotel.

      It was an opportunity for the party to showcase two of its new Vancouver candidates—Mira Oreck and Jenny Kwan—who acted as the hosts of the event. 

      Oreck and Kwan are polished speakers, and Oreck drew loud applause with her criticism of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's support for Bill C-51.

      "It is a failure of leadership to say you support Bill C-51 when you oppose it only because you're afraid Stephen Harper will criticize you for it," Oreck said.

      Oreck is running in Vancouver Granville and Kwan is running in Vancouver East.

      It surprised me that the NDP candidate for Vancouver Centre—Constance Barnes—was not sharing the podium with them. After all, the event was being held in Barnes's riding.

      Mulcair's sister Deborah delivered impressive speech

      Next up after Oreck and Kwan was Mulcair's sister, Deborah, who teaches in the finance department at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo. 

      She delivered what was probably the most emotionally charged message of the afternoon.

      Deborah Mulcair noted that she's one of the NDP leader's six sisters and that Tom was the second oldest of 10 kids in the family.

      "Growing up, Tom was not only my brother, he was my confidant, he was my friend, he was my role model," Deborah Mulcair said.

      She said that her brother "always showed leadership".

      "Whether it was helping with homework, making dinner, or helping me get through my teenage years, he was always there for me," Deborah Mulcair said. "Tom has worked hard his whole life. Nothing was given to him."

      She recalled her brother taking a job in a factory at the age of 14 to help the family.

      "He showed us the value of working hard," Deborah Mulcair said. "I wanted to be just like him, so I took a job delivering newspapers as he had done when he was younger."

      She also pointed out that her older brother taught her the value of doing what's right and the importance of serving others.

      "He was my hero then and he's my hero today," Deborah Mulcair said to loud applause.

      Mulcair arrived to great applause

      When Mulcair came on stage, he sounded at first like one of those rock stars at Rogers Arena or B.C. Place Stadium.

      "Hello Vancouverrrrr," the NDP leader shouted.

      By this time, the crowd was fully energized and broke out in wild cheers.

      "Are you ready to bring change to Ottawa?" Mulcair asked. "Are you ready to replace the politics of fear and division with the politics of hope and optimism?"

      It's a line he's used before, but it still ignited the audience.

      "It's great to be back in British Columbia and this amazing city," he said.

      Then Mulcair went into what's becoming his standard stump speech, though it probably sounded new to most everyone at the Westin Bayshore this afternoon.

      "Middle-class families are working harder than ever but can't get ahead," he said. "Incomes are flat-lining and household debt is skyrocketing."

      NDP leader blamed Harper for poor economy

      Mulcair segued into how Conservative Leader Stephen Harper admitted at the recent Maclean's magazine debate that his plan is not working. This is not exactly what Harper said, but Mulcair's line still delighted the crowd.

      "As prime minister, Stephen Harper has the worst job-creation record since the Second World War," Mulcair said. "And he's got the worst economic-growth record since the Great Depression."

      Tom Mulcair couldn't resist mentioning the leaders' debate in his speech.
      screen shot

      According to Mulcair, there are 200,000 more Canadians out of work today than before the last recession. 

      "We lost 400,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs," he added.

      The NDP leader also claimed that Harper's government has run eight straight deficits and added $150 billion to the national debt.

      "British Columbians can't afford another four years of Stephen Harper," he said.

      Conservatives' ethical shortcomings highlighted

      Mulcair tore a strip off Harper's promise to run a cleaner government than the former Liberal regimes under Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien.

      "Conservative operatives and senators have been charged with election fraud; they pled guilty," he said. "Breach of trust, illegal lobbying, illegal campaign contributions, misleading voters, and bribery—celebrity fundraiser in the Senate, Mike Duffy, is up on 31 counts and his trial picks up again this week."

      Mulcair pointed out that Harper's chief of staff and former chief staff will both be there to testify. Then he claimed that one-third of the Senate is under RCMP investigation.

      In fact, the auditor general referred expense-account files about nine current and former senators to the RCMP after the national police force already revealed that it was investigating four others. There are 83 sitting senators. 

      But most in the crowd probably didn't notice that nuance as Mulcair continued along the ethics track with a direct reference to former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro.

      "Mr. Harper's own hand-picked ethics spokesperson was just sent to jail," Mulcair said. "Stephen Harper's Conservatives have been convicted of wrongdoing in each of the last three elections. And friends, you and I cannot let him get away with it a fourth time."

      That's when the chants came forth of "time for a change."

      "With a record like this, I ask British Columbians: does Stephen Harper deserve another four years?" Mulcair said.

      After repeating some his remarks in French, the NDP leader said that his is the only party with the experience and the plan to "repair the damage" that Harper has done.

      Mulcair's childcare promise excites New Democrats

      Mulcair didn't just criticize Harper. The NDP leader also talked about his party's proposals, including investments in infrastructure to "create local jobs" and "tax relief" for small businesses.

      I found it interesting that an NDP leader would use the term "tax relief". It was pioneered by U.S. Republicans, because it sounds less harsh than tax cuts.

      Mulcair also promised to be a champion for manufacturing and high-tech industries.

      Some of the loudest applause came when Mulcair said that every child deserves access to early childhood education. His party has promised a $15-per-day plan while keeping the universal child-care benefit.

      "Here in Vancouver, parents are paying some of the highest child-care fees in the whole country," Mulcair said.

      He insisted that the NDP plan is not only good for parents, but it's also good for the economy. And he pointed out that Conservative and Liberal governments never created child-care spaces.

      "Once and for all, there will be quality, affordable, available childcare across this great province," he said.

      NDP leader also discussed housing

      Next, Mulcair said that affordable housing is a right and not a privilege.

      He noted that "Vancouver remains the most expensive city in all of Canada in which to buy a home."

      That, he claimed, is forcing middle-class families to leave the city to find a home they can afford.

      "But it's not only bad for the families, it's also bad for the economy," the NDP leader declared.

      He said that the cities and provinces need a partner in Ottawa to address the housing crisis. And Mulcair promised to help by being a "long-term partner" that the cities need to build more affordable housing.

      "Under the New Democrats, Ottawa will finally do its share," he said.

      Transit also mentioned

      Meanwhile, Mulcair also claimed that Vancouver is "paying the price" of Canada being the only O.E.C.D. country without a national transit strategy. 

      "Every city in Canada should have modern transit infrastructure to move people quickly and affordably," the NDP leader insisted.

      Then he reiterated a pledge that the NDP will transfer more of the federal gas tax to municipalities for transit. He said this would amount to $1.3 billion per year "to meet the transit needs of growing cities like Vancouver".

      By now, the applause wasn't quite as intense, perhaps because the crowd was feeling exhausted. 

      Mulcair's speech to this point could be divided into two parts. The first made the case why Harper should be thrown out of power. The second included key NDP promises to urban voters.

      Mulcair harkened back to his values

      Then Mulcair closed by talking about the middle-class values that he learned growing up.

      "As Deb said, I grew up the second oldest of 10 kids," he said. "We had to work for everything we had. It wasn't easy. We worked hard. We played by the rules. And we lived within our means."

      Mulcair never uttered the word "Trudeau", but he was clearly setting himself apart from the son of the millionaire former prime minister. All criticism of Justin Trudeau came from the earlier speakers at this rally.

      "I worked my way through law school," Mulcair continued. "Montreal summers are hot and they're a heckuva lot hotter when you're tarring roofs."

      Next, he said that he learned the importance of looking out for one another, sticking together, and "backing up your principles with action".

      "These are the values that guide me as a husband, as a father, and as a grandfather," Mulcair stated. "These values have guided my 35 years of public service, including as a cabinet minister. And these are the values that will guide me as prime minister."

      And in case people missed it the first time, he repeated the NDP mantra that his team has the experience, the leadership, and the team to defeat Harper and the plan to repair the damage that he has wrought.

      It was a well-choreographed show, but perhaps not as riveting as I expected.

      Tom Mulcair was positioned right for the cameras.
      Charlie Smith

      This was not like the olden days

      Once upon a time, NDP rallies were for the masses in the building, not the audience on television.

      I can remember when former provincial leader Dave Barrett would fire up large crowds at Victoria's Memorial Arena and other locations with hourlong speeches that were at times hilarious, at times emotionally charged, and would always arouse New Democrats' passions.

      In those days, TV was a secondary consideration.

      Nowadays, everything seems scripted for the small screen.

      Mulcair's podium was placed strategically in front of a huge Canadian flag.

      Behind him was a bunch of ordinary-looking New Democrats seated on chairs, with many holding NDP placards. In front of the podium, the audience had a sufficient number of signs to wave, presenting the image of pro-Tom hysteria. And closer to the back of the room was a platform for the TV cameras to capture everything.

      On tonight's televised newscasts, I expect that Mulcair's speech will come across well because he hit all the right notes.

      But like a rock star who's played the same set list over and over again, Mulcair's performance didn't come across quite as spontaneously as many in the room might have hoped. This is likely particularly true among those who recall the barn-burning theatrics of Dave Barrett.




      Aug 9, 2015 at 4:56pm

      Re: "Nowadays, everything seems scripted for the small screen"-I couldn't agree more. I saw Mulcair in Victoria a couple of months ago and that was my impression-after in comparison- as a kid seeing Tommy Douglas(and having the pleasure to meet him) speak and Barrett too.
      As for Trudeau's support for Bill C-51, during the debate he said that that may have been "naive" on his part; I think the media and Opposition could have strongly raised this as a profound example of why he is not ready to lead the country. Linda McQuaig has the passion and intellect I'd like to see from the NDP.


      Aug 9, 2015 at 5:08pm

      I was surprised at the amateurish camera work on behalf of the videographer. Surely this was not some NDP campaign worker..... Anyone have any idea?


      Aug 9, 2015 at 5:31pm

      The analysis about it being somewhat scripted is fair enough (but so are the other candidates)... Anyways, at the end of the day, all that matters is electing anyone but Harper. The stakes are so high, and if that means limiting questions so that there are no political gaffs then I'm fine with that.

      Richard S.

      Aug 9, 2015 at 10:40pm

      This was my experience of the rally as well. Tom Mulcair's speech hit all the right notes, but it offered nothing new. I was also disappointed that he did not mention the environment, given the widespread environmental damage that Harper's regime has allowed and the urgency to correct it. I was also hoping that he'd speak to inequality, especially regarding income disparity, and the increasing poverty in our country (rather than speaking to the" middle class"). But at the end of the day, Mulcair needs to reach out to as many people as possible and if that means lowering one's rhetoric to a certain common denominator, then so be it.

      Mark Murphy

      Aug 10, 2015 at 8:53am

      One way or another the 'Pipsqueak Dictator' WILL be shown the door and I for one can't wait to dance naked across the Burrard Street Bridge. Christie Clark may not like that but haters are just going to hate, aren't they?


      Aug 10, 2015 at 10:04am

      I don care what cynical media flacks think about this event - or the campaign generally.
      Tom Mulcair and the New Democrats are the first progressives to ever - federally - challenge the corporate-media elites in my 79 years!
      If one takes the time to look at the detailed NDP policies one sees a leader and party committed to long-overdue action for social, economic and environmental justice.

      bev star

      Aug 10, 2015 at 5:43pm

      This is such a badly worded article. Somebody requires a course in basic grammar! As for Mulcair - he was terrific! Don't know what the author is talking about!

      The Other Dave

      Aug 10, 2015 at 8:00pm

      If you enjoy 300 more tankers transporting raw bitumen from Vancouver Ports and another pipeline in your backyard here, by all means, vote NDP. If not, Green Party would be the better choice.

      En Dub

      Aug 11, 2015 at 6:34am

      Actually Tom Mulcair said childcare costs of up to 15,000 a year not 52,000 as reported. Only the NDP have the plans I can support when they are in government. There is no comparison to yesteryear. When applause was muted might just be when more people were tweeting or posting to their other social media platforms because that's how we share our news (rather than waiting for reporters) and not as you suggest from exhaustion.


      Aug 11, 2015 at 10:39am

      '"Here in Vancouver, parents are paying some of the highest child-care fees in the whole country, up to $52,000 a year," Mulcair said.'

      The figure he gave was $15,000--still a lot of money.