Almost Blue

Harper, Mulcair

These days, it must feel good to be Thomas Mulcair. The polls show he has a chance to become Canada’s first NDP Prime Minister, and the entire country has been engulfed in an orange afterglow since the Alberta election. But as Uncle Ben once said, with great polling comes great scrutiny.

Indeed, one of the downsides of surging four months before election day is that leaves a lot of time for journalists and voters to put everything you’ve ever said or done under the microscope, and study it at the atomic level.

So when you make the type of verbal slip-up we all make from time to time, people are a lot more likely to notice.

And when you’re one day re-affirming your opposition to the Clarity Act, and the next promising a round of constitutional negotiations, people notice.

And now this:

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was in discussions in 2007 to join the Conservative party as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, discussions that several sources, including former senior Harper staffers, say was the first step in securing Mulcair to run as a Conservative candidate in 2008.

The negotiations between the Conservative government and the man who is today leader of the left-leaning official Opposition allegedly broke down over money: Mulcair wanted nearly double what Harper’s office offered, two sources tell Maclean’s.

Contacted today for comment, Mulcair says conversations about an advisory role with the government did occur, but talks broke down, not over money, but over the Conservatives’ environmental policies.

This has been talked about for some time, so it’s not a bombshell. It’s also not overly surprising if you think about it.

For most politicians, their greatest strength can be turned into a weakness. Stephen Harper is strong, but many call him authoritarian. Justin Trudeau is fresh, but the flip side of the coin is inexperience. Mulcair likes to portray himself as a politician with experience who knows how the game is played – but that also means he knows how the game is played. It’s only natural that a political pro like Mulcair would try to squeeze taxpayer dollars for partisan purposes, or would consider his options before jumping to federal politics.

Many will dismiss theses as allegations from the Conservative side of the negotiations, but the problem for Mulcair is that even his own side of the story will seem rather unseemly to many New Democrats. It’s all very good to say talks broke down over the environment, but I suspect most NDP voters have more than one stumbling block with the Harper government. Mulcair says he talked to at least three separate individuals about joining Harper’s team between 2006 and 2007. Most New Democrats, if asked to become an adviser to Stephen Harper, would laugh rather than set up a series of meetings to discuss terms.

The whole ordeal reminds me of the old joke:

Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… “
Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

Whether the talks broke off due to money or a single issue is mostly irrelevant in this case. The fact that Mulcair was negotiating establishes what kind of man he is.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election, Federal Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at www.calgarygrit.ca and online at the National Post.

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18 Responses to Almost Blue

  1. Don Macfarlane

    It’s become pretty clear from where I sit that the current version of the Conservative Party has a strong stink of partisan thuggery about it. But I’m not sure it was all that clear in 2007. And while top Conservatives say it “was the first step in securing Mulcair to run as a Conservative candidate in 2008,” I can’t imagine Mulcair saw it that way, as evidenced by his eventual refusal (over money or a single policy point is not material: if Mulcair saw it as recruitment and was open to it, neither would have made a difference.).

    If a government calls and says “we need your expertise”, who among us would flatly refuse? Rather, I think most of us would appreciate the opportunity to contribute, and to maybe bend policy in a direction we favour. I can hardly blame Mulcair for entertaining the idea.

    If this story is meant as a smear job on Mulcair, it’s a weird one, particularly if Tories are seeding the story.

    [Sneery negative-ad voice, foreboding music, photos fading to greyscale zooms:] “Tom Mulcair entertained the idea of joining the Conservative Party. He spoke to high level Conservatives. Do we really want someone so Conservative as Prime Minister? Paid for by the Conservative Party of Canada.”

    • The Invisible Hand

      This story is clearly coming from the Liberals (via their new friend Soudas), who want to discredit Mulcair in the eyes of “progressive” voters for wanting to work for the Conservatives, and convince them that therefore Trudeau is better anti-Harper option.

    • Vancouverois

      Harper’s opponents have been depicting him as an evil proto-fascist authoritarian for well over a decade; I doubt Mulcair can get away with pretending he thought the Conservatives were all sweetness and light. In fact, if memory serves, he’s already said that he never had any intention of running for them at all because he knew even then that they were completely evil. So that avenue of denial is no longer open to him, even if he wished to take it.

      Maclean’s has said that the source of this renewed story was not the Conservative party, nor Soudas. Could it be the Bloc? Or even unhappy Topp supporters within the NDP itself? (Assuming it isn’t a Liberal party source other than Soudas, that is… after all, it is the Liberal party which is losing the most to Mulcair right now, and which stands to gain the most if he stumbles.)

  2. Brachina

    Mulcair gave up a great deal of potential
    income when he ran for the NDP in Quebec while the NDP was in single digits. Mulcair agreed to the interview because he serves Canada above all else, when he realized the CPC would be reasonable on Kyoto and his advice would not be followed he refused the offer. Mulcair serves the Canadian people above all else, above partisan concerns, about his own interests.

    • Sean

      Yes, Mulcair serves the Canadian people above his own interests*.

      *Unless you’re talking about 300k, in which case, screw the Canadian people.

    • Vancouverois

      That’s certainly the narrative that Mulcair wants us all to believe.

      I would not take it at face value.

  3. Gayle

    I question the environment angle. By that point Harper was clearly dead set against Kyoto, and everyone knew it. Why enter into negotiations if that’s where the line was drawn?

    • Roger in Toronto

      Agreed. Mulcair’s story doesn’t add up. He had 3 MEETINGS with Harper’s team before he realized their position on Kyoto?

      • CuJoYYC

        Bingo! My point exactly. Only the orangest of acolytes will buy that line.

  4. Anon

    It is not even a new story as this article from a credible journalist establishes: http://ipolitics.ca/2015/06/30/mulcair-held-talks-in-2007-on-joining-tories-as-adviser-macleans/

    Perhaps the only thing new is the alleged amount of money offered. It was $150K before, in today’s story it has grown to $180K.

    Ironic actually but your Churchill joke above makes the important point: what does it matter whether it was $150K or more? Mulcair turned it down, did he not? Isn’t that the real bottom line …. he made the right decision regardless of what the true reason might have been?

    And another thing that really does not make sense to anyone with half a brain who has been following politics. Why would Mulcair join the NDP if his real motivation was to make a lot of money? I expect most people to agree that if one is motivated by only financial reasons, he/she would be most likely to join, respectively in this order, the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party.

    So, no, it is quite clear this is an attempt to smear the Leader of the Party that is riding high in the polls and is likely to toss out the sitting, corrupt governing Party in Oct. :)

    • Roger in Toronto

      How is it a smear if it’s true?

    • Vancouverois

      Why would Mulcair join the NDP if his real motivation was to make a lot of money?

      It’s alleged that he turned down that particular Conservative offer because they weren’t offering enough money. Even if that’s true (and I don’t take that as a given), that doesn’t mean that money was his main objective. I’ve also heard it alleged that he wanted a guarantee of a Cabinet seat if he did run for the Conservatives, and broke off negotiations in a huff when that was refused.

      Having turned down the Conservatives, the NDP were then his only viable federal option. The federal Liberals would not take him — he was persona non grata with the provincial party, and in any case his stance against the Clarity Act would be unacceptable. The Green party was closer to his supposed principles, but simply not politically viable.

      The NDP offered him an influential position — and catered to his ego. That last point is a factor which should not be underestimated; it can be a stronger motivator than any amount of money.

  5. Ron Waller

    That Trudeau hired Harper’s man, Dimitri Soudas, to be a part of his campaign — who is the source of this he-said she-side story — doesn’t speak well about him or his commitment to do politics differently than Harper. (What on Earth was he thinking?)

    • CuJoYYC

      “That Trudeau hired Harper’s man, Dimitri Soudas …”
      There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Soudas is employed by the Liberal Party or Trudeau directly.

      Assertions without evidence are churlish rumours.

  6. CalgaryGrit

    The article says Soudas wasn’t the source of this. And the story has been corroborated by Lawrence Cannon and at least one other CPC official.

    • Vancouverois

      To be fair, I don’t believe the 300K bit has been corroborated.

      However, if I remember correctly they did confirm that they were in negotiations, and Cannon specifically has said that they were never given a direct refusal.

  7. Vancouverois

    I honestly don’t much care about Mulcair’s negotiations with the Conservatives.

    What concerns me far, far, FAR more are his relentlessly pro-separatist positions on national unity and on Quebec’s language laws.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-real-thomas-mulcair/article557613/

    Under him, the NDP has become what the Progressive Conservatives were under Mulroney: a Trojan horse for the separatist movement to get into the federal government where they can do the most damage. THAT is the point that the Liberal party should be emphasizing.

    Mulcair’s record of these issues is shameful, and Canadians need to know about it.

  8. Josh

    You know, I expected more from you than this kind of hyper-partisan nonsense. The National Post article rather dispels this “scandal”:

    http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/top-federal-conservatives-back-tom-mulcairs-explanation-for-2007-talks-contradicting-macleans-report

    Mulcair was too greedy for the Cons so his safer, more profitable route was to run for the NDP in Quebec? A province where the party hadn’t won a seat since 1989?

    As for the Clarity Act business, I remember way back while writing a term paper in undergrad I made the point that said act defines neither a “clear question” or a “clear majority”. What’s more, the recent independence referendum in Scotland used a threshold of 50%+1. The idea that the federal government could impose anything more stringent than was acceptable to the UK government is really quite ridiculous. And what would we do in the event of a 51% sovereigntist victory (on a clear question at least)? Ignore it? How would that have gone down in 1995 with Parizeau’s plans for a potential UDI?

    It’s true enough that governments in BC and Ontario have imposed ludicrous supermajority thresholds on the comparably trivial issue of electoral reform – but then that was never remotely justifiable either.

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