Monday, March 5, 2012

Anonymous website attacks NDP's best candidate

By Michael Den Tandt, Postmedia News

Pragmatic Mulcair a target..

Fratricide is never pretty. But in the case of the high-minded New Democrats, some of whom appear to be committing it in the most cowardly of ways, it is particularly ugly. The irony is that, in doing so, they may be depriving themselves of the only leader among them with a hope of standing against Stephen Harper.
And of course, there's the not-insignificant detail that the anonymous person or people behind the preciously polite attack site are bound to eventually be identified, just as Adam Carroll, the former Liberal Internet mastermind who shepherded the Vikileaks Twitter campaign, was identified - with all the attendant blowback.
What are these people thinking? Here's what we know: Mulcair, a popular, combative and effective minister in the government of Quebec Premier Jean Charest between 2003 and 2006 and since 2007 the New Democrat MP for Outremont, is the front-runner in the contest to replace the late Jack Layton. This doesn't mean Mulcair will win. Someone could easily pull a Stéphane Dion and leap from behind to victory.
Nevertheless, Mulcair is drawing fire now from all sides - including his own. The attack site was registered Feb. 27 with registrar Co, under a number, 156. It outlines various alleged sins of commission and omission perpetrated by Mulcair against unions, students, socialist rectitude and the NDP itself, dating back to his time in government in Quebec City. The authors say only that they are "progressive new democrats."
Hmm. In what way, one wonders, is casting stones from beneath the skirts of mother Internet progressive? Surely not in the sense of being courteous or fair-minded in the way, say, Layton was.
"Our aim is not to attack Mr. Mulcair," the authors write, "but to ensure that NDP members know exactly who they're voting for to lead our party." This, next to links that home in with tacit outrage on every pragmatic move that Mulcair or the Quebec Liberals ever made. What rank hypocrisy.
Presumably New Democrats are expected to recoil in dismay as they read that Mulcair was part of a government that froze the wages of Quebec public servants, or reduced student aid. And the ideologically correct will be aghast, surely, to discover that Mulcair has long supported Israel's right to exist in peace and security. What further horrors await, should this usurper seize the party of Tommy Douglas and wrench it, kicking and screaming, to within reach of forming government?
The most thorough profile of Mulcair yet written was done last spring by Alex Caston-guay in L'Actualité, Macleans' sister publication in Quebec. It reveals Mulcair to be, like Brian Topp, one of a rarefied group in Quebec and Canadian politics: The perfectly bilingual child of an anglophone-francophone union. Mulcair's pre-political background is intriguing, in that he worked both for the council that polices the use of French in Quebec, and for Alliance Quebec, an anglophone-rights lobby.
More interesting still, Castonguay's profile of Mulcair reveals a politician, nicknamed "the grizzly," who by virtue of intellect, force of personality and simple bloody-mindedness, came to be feared by his political opponents. "From the very beginning he was a pitiless warrior," veteran Quebec Liberal politician Pierre Paradis told Castonguay.
That just wouldn't do, in opposition to Stephen Harper, now would it? Better to put someone more timorous up against the most effective and ruthless Conservative leader Canadians have seen, possibly, since Sir John A. Macdonald. Perhaps NDP supporters can then watch, in horrified fascination, as Harper feeds their morally unblemished new leader through the wood-chipper. Brian Topp, Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar can be described as many things. Pitiless warrior is not among them.
There are two larger factors, both incontrovertible, that make Mulcair the NDP's best and perhaps only hope of consolidating and furthering Jack Layton's gains.
First, Mulcair is the only candidate whom both francophone and anglophone Quebecers will embrace as one of their own. Topp can argue he fits that bill, too. With respect, no. His lack of elected experience is too large an obstacle, and that has become obvious in his debate performances, including Sunday's in Montreal.
Second, Mulcair is positioning himself plainly as an economic centrist, for example by defending "sustainable" oilsands development (that should be obvious, but never mind). His reasons for doing this aren't mysterious. Canadians have three times in six years elected Conservative governments, because we are mainly economic conservatives. Unless the NDP adapts at least somewhat to that reality, it won't contend for government in 2015.
It boils down to this: In spiking Mulcair's momentum, his e-foes have handicapped the one aspiring NDP leader who clearly has a vision that extends beyond the narrow purview of socialist politics, who can hold Quebec, and who's tough enough to go toe-to-toe with Harper. Odd.

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