An Open Letter to Thomas Mulcair—

I’m not really anybody. For demographic purposes you could segment me as a 50ish single woman with two children in their 20s, a self-employed professional living in downtown Toronto. I have no pension, no big home to sell and no expectation of a family inheritance. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that makes me a middle class Canadian like you or a soon-to-be older woman likely to end up living in poverty.

I have voted NDP in every election, save one, and have many friends, smart people and committed social democrats that I respect and love, and who are doing everything they can to get you elected Prime Minister. It is, in my view, a terrible pity you are giving them so little so work with. As follows:

  1. On the economy: You are making a balanced budget (a bit of a shell game according to many people who know a lot about money) the priority of your economic plan, despite the considerably well-known fact we need huge and immediate spending on our infrastructure, especially with the added stresses of extreme weather events caused by climate change. If you get into power, you (and all of us who will, unfortunately, bear the brunt of your priorities) will rue the day. On a personal note, I simply cannot stand the thought of four more years of an over-privileged white man in Ottawa with a good salary and pension harping about how, as a country, we cannot afford to do the things that matter most to people. Could it possibly be that this Thomas Mulcair Austerity Project means you are actually Stephen Harper-lite?
  1. On the issue of whether you are a social democrat: The reality of your career is that you began to sit in the Liberal caucus of the Quebec legislature 1994. You served in that Liberal caucus and had a 3-year stint in the Cabinet of former Conservative MP, Premier Jean Charest until March 2007. Five months later you ran for the NDP in Outremont. You have been a Liberal for the majority of your political life. A question: has the 13 years you spent as a Liberal affected your thinking less that the 8 years you’ve sat as a federal NDP MP? Either way, it’s pretty shocking how quickly and completely a person can change his political spots on such a large scale and never be called on it. It makes your current critique sound a bit hollow and the overall NDP brand tilting to opportunistic.
  1. On taxes: You seem to be all about the tax savings for the so-called middle class. What about the people who don’t make enough money to benefit from a tax break? Are they invisible? And what about the vision of building a great country together? Is that over for good now? Or is it just more important to have an extra hundred bucks in your pocket to make another run to Costco.
  1. On the issue of pot: You refuse to commit to legalizing pot, even though people who work at the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), and who know about such things, believe that is precisely what needs to be done. You have only committed to decriminalizing small amounts—a far cry from the legalization and regulation our young people need and ordinary adults who like the occasional joint want. This is hypocrisy with a capital H—65% of Canadians support decriminalization. Plus that dumb Conservative click-bait line you threw out about Trudeau knowing all about puffs of smoke during the debate. I’m not interested, but I don’t think you are talking to me anymore. Perhaps it’s your potential conservative voters, who are attracted by your fiscal policies, that you don’t want to scare away.
  1. Foreign aid spending: I saw the news article that you are not going to increase foreign aid spending, despite the fact that Canada ranked in the lower half of the OECD in foreign aid spending, dropping from .27% in 2014 to .24%. The UN’s target is .7% of GDP. Weren’t you guys involved in that .7% Solution campaign a few years back? This diminishing commitment is, of course, going to make that extra run to Costco possible (see #2) for the middle class, so perhaps you feel it’s all worth it in the end. The UNHCR will get along without Canada’s two cents. The sad thing is that, after 10 years of Harper’s foreign relations catastrophe, you will to continue make it look like Canadians don’t care about the rest of the world.
  1. Party tricks: Politics is said to be a blood sport and not for the faint of heart, I know. But your commissioning and publicizing of a CROP poll in Trudeau’s riding of Papineau showing he was running behind the NDP candidate, a poll roundly criticized for its methodology by several pollsters including the self-regulating body they’ve formed to regain some credibility, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, is a bit tricksy, don’t you think? But I won’t mention Stephen Harper again.

And, at last, it must be said, the recent reports of your 1996 description of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador left me stunned. You needed a synonym for the word “stupid” and you just picked the word “Newfie” out of thin air to get your point across? Stupid = Newfie?

I get it. It was almost 20 years ago. You were only 41 years old and a Liberal member of the Quebec legislature at the time. But the not so funny part of that, especially in those days, is that Newfoundlanders often did feel looked down on, less refined, less educated and poorer than the swanks on the mainland. I remember feeling like that and it wasn’t until a bunch of talented artists and comedians who held Newfoundland traditions up to be admired that I, and a good many more like me, became more proud than embarrassed about being a Newfoundlander.

You have no idea, do you? The smug confidence you have in your own intelligence was hurtful then and is hurtful now.

But that’s okay, Mr. Mulcair. Why don’t I just say that you acted like an arsehole and we’ll call it even?



Author Photo 01 Sandy Tam PhotographyGail Picco is a strategist who has worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years. She is the author of What the Enemy Thinks, a recent novel set in the nonprofit sector, and is Chair of the Board of the Regent Park Film Festival. She also writes about baseball and F1 racing.

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  1. Trudeau and the entire Liberal caucus acted like “arseholes” when they blindly supported Bill C-51 and actually introduced its mommy Bill C-11 in 2003. Remember that you Liberal shill?

    • If you wanted to change her mind, I don’t think you took the right approach. As it is, you seem to rather be confirming some anxieties we have about who the current NDP really is. And, just as a matter of basic respect, your drive-by childish ad hominem is not cool.

    • Serge Proulx says:

      I guess you do not know how to read English Shola ……
      here let me help you and this is a direct quote from Gail’s article…..2nd para …” I have voted NDP in every election, save one, and have many friends, smart people and committed social democrats that I respect and love, and who are doing everything they can to get you elected Prime Minister. ……note the word NDP…..but thank you for helping her make the RIGHT choice…….and I am a LIberal……

  2. mulcairdoubter says:

    I was a Progressive Conservative most of my life. Felt about Liberals the same way many do. When the PCs folded, I voted NDP in 2006. Then I found out about Jack Layton’s little truce with Stephen Harper and I started voting Liberal. However, when it came to important issues, like prorogation, Afghan Detainees and the closing of the prison farms, we all worked in tandem. NDP, Green and Liberals. But Thomas Mulcair changed all that. C-51 should have been an election issue against Stephen Harper, but instead became an all out attack on Justin Trudeau. Any notion of cooperation with the NDP has gone out the window. The good news is that by taking the party to the right, it opened the left for Trudeau to move in. His policies are more Layton than Martin and Mulcair’s more Harper than any NDP I’ve ever known.

  3. Great column. On the second point, a small point of clarificiation:
    In Quebec provincial politics, the political divide for decades has been along the Federalist/Sovereignist divide, not Left/Right…

    Moving from provincial Liberal to federal NDP is not strictly a floor crossing… Just as jumping from federal Progressive Conservative to provincial Liberal party is not (as Jean Charest famously did to take leadership of the party, then lead Quebec as a Liberal premier).

    In both cases, Charest and Mulcair were moving from a federalist party to a federalist party, despite living on opposite sides of the classic Left/Right divide.

  4. This is just silly. Every subject line from economy to party tricks any dipper could fill it with JT gaffes/questions along with context. Silly.

  5. In Quebec provincial politics, there is no NDP and there are no Conservatives. There are the Liberals or the separtists. Liberal governments in Quebec (and separtist ones for that matter) go back and forth in terms of how conservative versus social democrat they are at any point in time. Overall, however, Quebec is much more socialist than the rest of Canada. I don’t think it is relevant to hold Mulcair’s Quebec provincial party allegiance up and use it to question whether he is a social democrat or not. Look at his record, sure. But the label “Liberal” doesn’t really mean anything.

  6. I have issues with the way politics are done these days and I support people speaking out like this but I have one clarification – Tom has pledged to decriminalize pot which is the party’s policy on the issue (

    And I also think you’ll find the party has made commitments that benefit lower income people, like the childcare program and the pharmacare program. Obviously, the effect will be up for debate but that’s my opinion.

    Finally, every single political party has commissioned riding polls, every single party has leaked them, in fact the day after the CROP poll on Papineau came out the Liberals released their own poll, done by Leger I think, on the same riding. And the self-regulating body you mention has been criticized by some polling firms who feel that it’s designed to squeeze out some of the up-and-coming smaller pollsters.

  7. There is no left or right under Thomas Mulcair, it is simply dead centre of a social democracy. Repeal C51, boost the economy with affordable childcare, investment in manufacturing and infrastructure, lower taxes to small business, higher taxes to corporations, protect communities with more RCMP and supports of those affected by drugs, get out of the war, get pensions back to 65, stop banking fees and high interest rates, reinstate union rights, look after the elderly, the people suffering from mental illness, abuse, the homeless and the sick (medicare and pharmacare). Nobody is perfect but this is what Canada needs right now.

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