As Mulcair steps right, Trudeau steers left

How the NDP and the Liberals have switched ideological places.

NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau
Credit: 
NDP and Liberal official Flickrs

Challenging the status quo of being Canada’s left, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair looks as though he’s shaping his party to be a more centrist option for voters in the 2015 federal election. 

As a traditionally left party, a centrist NDP is unconventional.

Before Jack Layton ignited the Orange Wave in 2008, a movement that brought the NDP to Official Opposition status, elections were historically between the Conservatives and the Liberals. 

The Conservatives, led by current Prime Minister Steven Harper, are Canada’s conventional right-wing party, and the Liberals, up until now, were the centrist option.

But as Mulcair guides the NDP towards the centre, current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau seems to be steering his party left on the political spectrum.

Both parties have repetitive  mantras of strengthening the middle class. However, Mulcair and Trudeau’s approaches to middle-class empowerment are fundamentally different. 

Mulcair pledges to strengthen the middle class by giving small businesses a tax break from 11 to nine per cent. Trudeau, on the other hand, has said, if elected, he’ll target the wealthy and large businesses with harsher taxation.

In short, Mulcair wants to level the classist playing field by bring the middle class up, whereas Trudeau wants to level by removing wealth from the wealthy. Mulcair has yet to come out with an official stance on corporate taxation and has said the NDP will not raise income taxes.

In the grander financial scheme, the NDP has presented an atypically conservative budget plan in comparison to the Liberals. 

Even among traditional NDP promises, Mulcair has vowed to make balancing the federal budget a top priority. Andrew Thomson, an NDP candidate and former Saskatchewan finance minister, following Mulcair’s suit, said budget cuts would be inevitable if the NDP were to take power.

Mulcair’s promise heavily contrasts Trudeau’s announcement that his party would only balance the budget in the 

2019-2020 fiscal year, following a three-year deficit. The Liberals’ plan is to invest $125 billion into public transit, social infrastructure and environmental projects before trying to balance the books.

Even on the topic of marijuana, Trudeau’s the only leader from the dominant parties to vocalize favour for immediate legalization and recreating Colorado’s success in legalization. 

On the other hand, Mulcair has been less specific on the topic of marijuana, stating that his party is committed to the decriminalization of marijuana with no mention of legalization. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Mulcair’s political leanings are more centre than left considering his previous political career with the Liberal Party of Quebec. From 1994 to 2006, Mulcair operated under the Liberal brand as a member of the National Assembly in Quebec.

Recently, Mulcair’s 2001 comments, in which he praised Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party, resurfaced and generated slight controversy among the left. Mulcair gushed that the English economy was rebuilt by Thatcher’s “winds of liberty and liberalism” that “swept across the markets in England.” 

Keep in mind, Margaret Thatcher was an enemy to the left and trade unions during her run as Prime Minister in England.

In addition, Barry Weisleder, chairman of the NDP Socialist Caucus, revealed his dissatisfaction with Mulcair’s branding of the NDP in an interview on Aug. 28.

“I don’t hear the leader claiming to be leading a left-wing party. I would like to hear that. And I would like to see the policies and actions to back it up,” Weisleder said.

Weisleder and the caucus have gone on the record pushing Mulcair to introduce more leftist promises of national pharmacare, a pro-Palestinian stance and harsher taxation policies.

Could it be that the NDP and the Liberals have switched ideological places? If so, it seems to be working for the NDP, as they lead ever so slightly in the polls. 

Throughout the entirety of the campaign, the Conservatives, NDP and Liberals have been hovering around each other roughly within 5 per cent. Éric Grenier, a poll analyst for CBC and founder of ThreeHundredEight.com, has predicted that if the election was held on Sept. 7, 2015, the NDP would win a minority government with 122 seats, 48 seats away from a majority government.

A consequence to having two ideologically similar parties running against each other is that it splits like-minded voters among different parties. 

While Mulcair was open to a coalition between the Liberals and the NDP, Trudeau said the possibility of combining the two parties was “out of the question”. 

Right now, in the shuffle of redefining party political ideology, it’s looking like the NDP could win a minority by being right. 

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