Canada’s forgotten leader: Thomas Mulcair

Courtesy Queen's University on Flickr

Courtesy Queen’s University on Flickr

There’s less than a year to go until Canadians head to the polls to vote in the 2015 federal election, and campaigns are brewing in preparation for Oct. 19, 2015.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper gears up to defend his eight-year incumbency, many are touting Justin Trudeau, the young Liberal leader with the famous name, as his chief rival. Indeed, much of the media attention surrounding the coming election has focused on the clash between the two. Trudeau is a common target of Harper’s and is mentioned frequently in his speeches. Clearly, Harper considers Trudeau his greatest political threat and the media seems to agree.

There is an important name missing from the conversation, however; that of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. The politician remains overshadowed by the visibility of his much-talked-about opponents, who are seen as the front-runners in the traditional liberal versus conservative battle that was only recently upset by the NDP’s “orange crush” of 2011.

Mulcair is not well known in English Canada, where he is mentioned in the media far less than Trudeau. A poll by Abacus Data found that 51 per cent of respondents had either a neutral or unknown impression of Mulcair, compared to 34 per cent for Trudeau and 28 per cent for Harper.

Canadians’ lack of familiarity with the NDP leader is prompting Mulcair to spend more time on the road, in an effort to increase his visibility. He realizes his scant presence in the media, saying, “We have to fight for every column inch.”

Mulcair is in many ways a stark contrast to Trudeau. A household name, Trudeau has grown up in the public eye and is as comfortable balancing a baby at a campaign stop as he is talking politics. Trudeau has captured the nation’s attention, and was recently profiled in the U.S. magazine Vanity Fair, where writer Shinan Giovanni likens him to “the closest thing Canada has to JFK Jr.”

Mulcair, in his own words, is a National Geographic cover compared to Trudeau’s People magazine.

Praise for Mulcair’s performance during the Senate scandal improved his impression with Canadians, but he still lingers in most polls. Although he has respectable approval ratings, polling suggests only 17 per cent of Canadians would select him as Prime Minister, compared to 31 per cent for Trudeau and 28 per cent for Harper. Mulcair enjoys an edge over Trudeau only in Quebec, where he is is more well-known, but that won’t mean much if he can’t secure support in the strategically important English-speaking Ontario ridings.

Ratings aren’t everything, of course. But they suggest there could be a long road ahead for this overlooked leader.


I'm a Journalism student that likes politics and pop culture.

1 Comment

  • Joseph Keller
    Reply November 19, 2014

    Joseph Keller

    I think part of the reason that so few people know much about Mulcair is that he’s still sort of living in the shadow of the late Jack Layton. Good job introducing your readers to a figure that Canadians should probably know more about than they do.

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