PHOTOS: Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau during a visit to Edmonton last year. Below: NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It should have been natural for the leader of the NDP to finally be the one who clearly called out Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his unprincipled and unpatriotic campaign of dog-whistle bigotry.
It should also have been Thomas Mulcair who spoke up unequivocally for the tens of thousands of Canadians who have watched in horror as our country’s life-saving regime of gun-control legislation was gutted piece by piece by Mr. Harper in a cynical game of wedge politics.
But this week it was Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, who did both those things without equivocation and who, it is predicted here, will benefit from the fact that, sometimes, fortune favours the brave, as opposed to the studiously cautious.
Yes, Mr. Mulcair expressed his carefully worded disapproval of the prime minister’s sneaky campaign of distraction, which is a fair description of Mr. Harper’s un-Christian effort to use the image of a niqab to appeal to the basest instincts among some of our neighbours by promising to protect us from a piece of cloth precisely no one will ever seek the right to wear in a civil service office.
This whole niqab scam reminds me of the deplorable effort I covered during the 1980s by the buffoons of the Royal Canadian Legion to prevent observant Sikhs from wearing turbans in their beer parlours. The sodden Legionnaires were apparently unaware religious Sikhs don’t drink alcohol. As Mr. Harper’s advisors well know, the likelihood is even smaller any observant monotheist woman of any faith inclined to cover her face would be clamouring to work in a co-ed government office!
But it was Mr. Trudeau – and former Progressive Conservative Newfoundland premier Danny Williams – who called Mr. Harper’s manipulation what it is: a dangerous and ugly game of pitting Canadian against Canadian for electoral gain that is unworthy of the office of prime minister.
“We have had women attacked in the streets for wearing hijabs and niqabs,” Mr. Trudeau stated. “This is not Canada, and the kind of leadership and divisive politics that he’s playing is dangerous and irresponsible.”
Or, as Mr. Williams remarked: “To try and use those kinds of tactics to pit people against people in the country so that they end up voting for his party and he gets re-elected, I just think that’s quite shameful.”
It may or may not be too late to turn the tide of bigotry Mr. Harper has tried to unleash, but it is said here that making the effort, even at this late date, will do Mr. Trudeau no harm.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals were even bolder on the issue of gun control, which the Conservatives may have forgotten is a wedge issue that has the potential to cut both ways.
After all, the members of Conservative Party base who have singled out Muslim Canadians as their biggest obsession and the creepy cadre of gun nuts who dream of turning Canada into a Wild West firearms bazaar like the United States are for the most part the same angry group of wedge voters. So it’s not as if the sensible safety measures suggested in the Liberal platform on firearms are going to drive any more Conservative gun nuts to the polling stations, or deprive other parties of their support.
The gun nuts, insensitive as ever to the fact the death of another young woman at the hands of a former boyfriend with access to firearms is still fresh in the minds of Canadians, rushed screeching to attack the Liberal leader for demanding a few modest and sensible limits to their anti-social hobby.
Count on it, they will be out there posting their 12,000-word ripostes to the Liberal policy – and thereby reminding everyone just how obsessive and dangerous their lobby has become since being discovered by Mr. Harper as way to wedge votes away from other parties in rural communities.
The NDP, alas, was being circumspect again yesterday about that issue too, notwithstanding the fact it is a natural for the Opposition party’s base. According to media accounts, NDP spokespeople were gingerly hesitating to respond to requests for comments on the party’s gun-control policy.
Well, it may or may not be too late for Angry Tom – the leader many of us New Democrats supported because he seems to have what it takes to take on Mr. Harper – to put in an appearance and turn things around for the NDP.
Personally, I never thought Canadians minded Mr. Mulcair’s once-evident anger. God knows, there’s enough in this country to be angry about! But ever since some brainiac had the inspiration to dress Mr. Mulcair up in an Angry Bird costume last Halloween, the possibility of expressing that real and justified anger seems to have spooked the NDP’s strategic brain trust.
One thing is increasingly clear, the NDP’s mild-mannered, over-cautious, Adrian-Dix-style campaign is clearly not working.
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Still no response on St. Albert Conservative’s position on reproductive rights
Oddly, there’s been no response from Richard Plain, campaign manager for the Conservative candidate here in the St. Albert-Edmonton riding, about Michael Cooper’s views on women’s reproductive rights.
Alert readers will recall that Dr. Plain asserted earlier this week that Mr. Cooper’s endorsement by the Campaign Life Coalition – an extreme anti-abortion group that deleted a page from its website stating Mr. Cooper had indicated he opposed women’s right to an abortion in all circumstances – was a mistake, and the candidate had never filled out the group’s questionnaire.
But Dr. Plain did not answer emails asking what, then, Mr. Cooper truly believes on the issue, which is an important one to many voters.
St. Albert residents will have the opportunity, presumably, to ask Mr. Cooper themselves at tonight’s Chamber of Commerce all-candidates’ forum, which is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at the St. Albert Inn and Suites, 156 St. Albert Trail.