Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thomas Mulcair Speaks in Winnipeg

Recently, I watched a movie in which there was a scene involving the owner of a comedy club announcing that he was going to hear a political opponent speak. When asked why, he responded, “I’m not supporting him, for God’s sake. I need new material.”

When I heard that federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair was going to be speaking in Winnipeg, I became the owner of that comedy club. What better opportunity for writing fodder could I ask for?

For those that don’t know me, my political views vary significantly from those of the NDP. Stephen Harper is too much of a leftist for my tastes. I’ve ridiculed MP Steven Fletcher personally on the Conservative government’s wasteful spending.

So I bundled up and made the multi-mile walk to the Sir John Franklin Community Center, where Mulcair was to speak this morning.

Or so I thought.

The parking lot was less than half full and the place was less than a beehive of activity. More people did show up a little later, but I was shocked that an appearance of the federal Leader of the Opposition could barely fill a small hall like this. To paraphrase Jim Carr from the classic movie Slap Shot, good seats were still available.

When I walked in, organizers were asking people to sign a register. There was a spot for name, “adress”, telephone number and email address. I declined to give my “adress”, though I did point out the spelling error. The person at the counter seemed less than interested. Oh well. 

I sat down, pulled out my camera and notepad and waited for the fun to begin.

I looked around at the eclectic collection of attendees. There were a large number of starry-eyed 20-somethings, a few seniors and a scruffy-looking older gentleman who looked like he had just crawled out of a BFI dumpster. Wolseley in a microcosm.

Needless to say, I didn’t brag about my membership in the Conservative party among this group.

Master of Ceremonies Rebecca Blaikie then called the meeting to order.

The first speaker was Pat Martin, the outspoken honorable member for Winnipeg Center.

Warming up the crowd for the keynote speaker, Martin passionately railed against the Harper government. Surprisingly, he showed some unusual restraint and refrained from using profanity during his speech. Given his prior childish behavior, it came as quite a shock to me to see this petition on his own party’s Web site.

Perhaps he read it. Or not. Agree or disagree with his views, when you think Pat Martin, “civility” is not the first word that comes to mind. His behavior in and out of the House of Commons gives politicians across the spectrum a bad name.

Moving on, the keynote speaker was introduced.

Mulcair spoke for approximately 15 minutes. Of course, he praised the Manitoba NDP government, saying “you’ve got to be the model for our breakthrough.”

And what a model it is. We’re drowning in debt and the only reason our heads are above water is the same federal government that Mulcair kept hammering during his speech. 40% of Manitoba’s revenues come from the federal government, compared to 18% for Saskatchewan, a province Manitobans once made fun of. Now we’re the butt of their jokes.

Mulcair failed to mention this in his speech as well as the fact that Saskatchewan’s economic boom has coincided with the removal of its NDP government.

It wouldn’t be an officially-sanctioned NDP speech without wailing on bank profits. Mulcair obliged. As the crowd applauded, I wondered how many of them were invested in bank stocks.

Mulcair took the opportunity to praise the public insurance model in Manitoba.

A fan of Manitoba Public Insurance either doesn’t live here or hasn’t been involved in an auto accident yet. Perhaps Mulcair should check out to find out what Manitobans really think of their public insurance system before his next visit. Extolling the virtues of MPI is not going to win him any new friends in this part of the world.

Manitoba Public Insurance has shown the ability to absorb endless numbers of bureaucrats and create jobs. Their premiums may be low, but so is the coverage you get. And if you don’t like it, go to another insurance company. Oh right, you can’t.

Mulcair raised an important point about not enough Canadians casting a ballot in the last federal election. Rather than put the blame on people like the renegade MP seated to his right, however, he had the nerve to suggest that it is the National Post and Sun Media’s “attacks” on the NDP that turns voters away.

I, for one, have never let the constant barrage of left-wing propaganda from media outlets like the CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press stop me from casting a ballot.

As he spoke, he seemed deeply offended that his party does not have a monopoly on the mainstream media. Such tolerance, indeed.

People often bristle when I jokingly refer to the NDP as the Communist party. Yet it was Mulcair himself who openly used the term “comrades” to describe his supporters in the room. If the shoe fits.

After Mulcair left, so did I. The rest of the attendees gathered around to discuss various issues pertaining to their party. Perhaps I could have picked up some more fodder, but I got my fill for the day. It was a worthwhile trip.

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