Former NDP leader Mulcair looking optimistically to the future

Ex-Chomedey MNA says he’s proud of his accomplishments

Martin C. Barry

Set to retire from politics in June when he’ll be stepping down as MP for the riding of Outremont, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair says he’s feeling confident about his future on the faculty of one of the country’s leading universities and as the head of an environmental group that organizes Earth Day in Quebec.

In an interview with Newsfirst Multimedia last week, Mulcair – who first entered politics in 1994 as the Liberal MNA for the Laval riding of Chomedey – said he will be teaching political science beginning this summer.

Tom Mulcair, former NDP leader.
Former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, seen here in his Outremont constituency office, will be teaching political science at the University of Montreal starting this summer.

New horizons for Mulcair

On Friday last week, the University of Montreal announced that Mulcair is joining their political science faculty as a visiting professor in the newly-created Master’s degree program in environment and sustainable development. Jour de la Terre had previously announced that Mulcair was taking on the leadership of the organization as volunteer board president.

“I can say that I’m in a very good place in my career right now,” said Mulcair. “I’m very satisfied that the number one job that Jack [Layton] and I had set for ourselves we were able to accomplish – which was breaking through in Quebec for the NDP.

Thomas Mulcair 1993.
Thomas Mulcair running in Chomedey for the Quebec Liberals in 1993.

Proud of NDP’s achievements

“We still have 16 outstanding MPs. And I’ll be leaving at the end of the spring session, but I’m convinced that the party is going to be able to find an excellent candidate to replace me and they’ll be able to take that into the next election and I’m sure that things are going to go well.”

The year 2015, a federal election year, was momentous not only for Mulcair, but for the two other party leaders vying for the country’s top elected position. For the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau, it meant becoming the country’s leader, while for the incumbent Conservatives’ Stephen Harper the election brought about the end of his political career.

Betty McLeod with Thomas Mulcair
June 2006, Betty McLeod of Agape awarding Thomas Mulcair for his continuous support.

A setback for the NDP

As for fate of the NDP, Mulcair said, “We were always very prudent, and I was always very prudent never to get ahead of ourselves. Polls would go up and be in our favour and then they’d go back down. We were convinced we had a good offer on the table.

“And, in any event, we slid back to our third-party position that we’d been in before. But I am proud of the fact that I got the second-highest number of seats in the NDP’s history: 44 seats is the second-highest that we’ve ever had. And it’s second, of course, to the fabulous Orange Wave of 2011.”

A letdown after election

Mulcair said he underwent a period of feeling disenchanted following the election. “You feel a great deal of disappointment that the great ideas we had put forward are not going to come to pass,” he said. “So knowing that Canadians were going to be stuck with the Liberals again, and knowing those Liberals from my 40 years in government, I knew what was going to happen.”

Although he hasn’t been the NDP’s leader since last October when the party’s new leader, Jagmeet Singh, succeeded him, Mulcair remains outspoken in his criticism of Justin Trudeau, whose 2015 sweep set back the NDP and thwarted any ambitions Mulcair might have had to be in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Thomas Mulcair, Minister of Environment
Thomas Mulcair presenting Quebec’s government sustainable development new policies as Minister of Environment.

Still critical of Justin Trudeau

“This is the first sitting Prime Minister in Canadian history to break the law,” said Mulcair, referring to the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that Trudeau breached the country’s Conflict of Interest Act when he vacationed at the Bahamian home of  the Aga Khan.

“Watching Mr. Trudeau be found guilty by the ethics commissioner has an effect on all of us, because it’s a question of ethics. He’s often very flippant when he reacts to that. He tries to pirouette away from it, saying ‘I won’t do it again.’ … A Prime Minister has to show ethics at the highest level. He has to be a model. And Justin Trudeau’s ethics have been shown to be totally lacking.”

Strength of Conviction front cover
Tom’s new book “Strength of Conviction”

A passion for politics

With politics clearly still very much in his blood, Mulcair said it his intention to have his university students benefit from his four decades of political experience as well as his views on future political developments in Quebec and Canada.

“You can be sure that the 40 years of experience I have in government will allow me to inspire them to get involved publicly to make sure that workers’ pensions are protected and the environment is protected for future generations,” he said. “These are all things that I believe in passionately and that won’t change when I leave politics.”