Can Thomas Mulcair steal the spotlight away from Justin Trudeau?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

If you’re an older sibling, you know what it’s like to have your baby brother or little sister get all the attention. 

It sucks! Everyday you feel like screaming “look at me, look at me!” 

That’s kind of how NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is feeling right now.

Since becoming leader in 2012, he’s done all the right things — he’s holding Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s feet to the fire, he’s come out with some detailed policies and he comes across as learned and knowledgeable during media interviews. 

Despite all his work, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau continues to get all the attention from media and, according to the opinion polls, from Canadians. 

The NDP caucus are meeting in Edmonton this week to talk about that and about the upcoming session of parliament which begins next week. 

"The team is in good spirits. We just finished a great meeting this morning, getting ready for the election but knowing that we’re a team that is already there with regard to forming government and being able to take Canada in a direction that Canadians want," Mulcair said at press conference from the caucus meeting in Edmonton.

"People are so tired of what’s going on in Ottawa right now. The partisan attacks and frankly the platitudes  the empty phrases.We’re putting concrete solid ideas on the table. Ideas that meet Canadians expectations.”

Political consultant and Sun News contributor Warren Kinsella implies that despite Mulcair’s ongoing bravado, he’s facing a losing battle.  

"Mulcair’s big problem can be summed up in three words: Mulcair isn’t Layton," Kinsella, who worked for former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and former prime minister Jean Chretien, told Yahoo Canada News.  

"For good or bad, who your leader is plays a big, big role in political decision-making.  And folks just don’t like Tom as much as they liked Jack."

To some extent, the NDP seems to realize that.

According to CBC News, the party is planning to have Mulcair spend more time on the road and less time in the House of Commons so that Canadians can get to know him better. They also intend to roll out their platform well before the October 2015 election. 

But Kinsella suggests that won’t change anything. 

"The Liberal brand is experiencing a comeback across Canada - in BC, in Nova Scotia, in Ontario, in Quebec.  If [the NDP] had something to stop the Liberal resurgence, they would have used it by now.  They haven’t," Kinsella said. 

"The New Democrats aren’t going to fall back to their traditional support levels - I think there’s an excellent chance they will drop even below that."

[ Related: Three years after the death of Jack Layton, the NDP appears destined for third-party status ]

Not surprisingly, a former NDP strategist sees things a little differently. 

Bill Tieleman, a columnist with 24 Hours newspaper in Vancouver, says that NDP strategy is a good one. 

"I think that Tom Mulcair needs to look at this next period as an opportunity to draw a very sharp contrast between himself and Justin Trudeau," Tielman told Yahoo in a telephone interview on Wednesday.  

"I think he has to sort of amplify on what…most people would say..are Trudeau’s weak points. He’s light on policy, he’s light on the knowledge, he is prone to making substantive mistakes…and he tends to walk into pretty dangerous situations."

"But because he’s likable and affable, he’s kind of got away with it. But we in B.C. know all to well that you can be way ahead in the polls as the [B.C.] NDP was last year and suddenly it all falls apart."

In Tieleman’s opinion, Mulcair’s strong attributes  his experience and his debating ability  will shine during the course of an election campaign after the writ is dropped. 

"If I was in Justin Trudeau’s camp, I’d be very nervous about going into a debate with [Mulcair and Harper] who are both excellent debaters," he said. 

"On the campaign trail, if something becomes an issue…it’s day after day before it gets resolved. If you say ‘my favourite government is the Chinese government’ during the campaign, you’re going to have a very miserable campaign." 

The NDP’s caucus meeting concludes on Thursday.

The next general election is scheduled for October 2015.  

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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