Amid the excitement of Canada’s women’s hockey team staging a historic comeback to beat the U.S. in the gold medal game at the winter Olympics on Thursday, federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair brought his political message to Kelowna.
Sensing the competition he faced for his audience’s attention from the game playing on a television set behind him at a local restaurant, Mulcair waited until after Marie-Philip Poulin scored in overtime to give Canada the victory before he started speaking.
And when he did, he went on the attack.
Most of his remarks—and even many of the answers he gave to questions posed by people in the audience of about 70 people—were shots specifically fired at Prime Minister Stephen Harper rather than Harper’s Conservative government.
Playing to the perception that Harper is a controlling one-man show,Mulcair characterized federal government moves as moves made by the prime minister himself.
“Stephen Harper is trying to stack the deck and load the dice,” he said of the government’s proposed changes to voting rules recently introduced.
When asked about health care in Canada, he said Harper is planning to reduce funding for health care in Canada by $36 billion.
He laid Canada Post’s recent decision to stop home delivery of mail directly in Harper’s lap and accused the prime mister of preferring power to actual governing and “decision-making followed by fact-checking,” instead of the other way around.
And the pro-NDP crowd liked what they heard. They cheered when Mulcair said the changes to voting rules would be the “number one issue” his party would take challenge Harper over.
Mulcair, who said later he has been impressed by the size of the crowds that have turned out to talk to him during a series of whistle-stop appearances in the B.C, southern Interior in recent days, said he feels his party has a good base of support here in what has traditionally been considered strong Conservative territory.
And he said the way to build on that support in order to win more seats here is to get out and explain to voters what the federal NDP is all about, and what it is offering.
“We need young voters,” he said, noting 18- to 25-year-olds are not turning out to vote in federal elections despite the fact he feels they are some of the most engaged members of the population.
“We need to explain (our message) to them,” said Mulcair.
The NDP leader also said he does not want to be part of the first generation to leave its children in a worse position than it found itself in. That, he added, is what is happening now under the current Conservative government because of its policies, particularly when it comes to the environment.
But it was not just the Harper that Mulcair went ofter.
Accusing Liberal leader Justin Trudeau of having “no substance,” he said while his NDP is “a government is waiting,” the Liberals cannot be ruled out because of their history with Canadian voters.
But he said he is confident that when the three party’s respective plans for issues such as the economy, the environment, jobs, health care and social programs are compared, Canadians will support the NDP.
“And we can do it all without rising taxes,” he said.