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Opinion

Mulcair Is Ready to Rumble!

His NDP victory promises a battle royale in Parliament and trouble for Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois.

By Bill Tieleman 27 Mar 2012 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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New Dems needed a 'grizzly bear' and found one in Mulcair.

"Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don't ever apologize for anything." -- Former U.S. President Harry Truman, 1884-1972.

Thomas Mulcair's election as leader of the New Democratic Party and leader of the official Opposition means two clear things.

First, Parliament will see a battle royale like it has not experienced in many years.

Second, Mulcair is big trouble for the ruling Conservatives, the flagging Liberals and the nearly dead Bloc Quebecois.

NDP members on Saturday decided they were in the biggest fight of their party's existence -- and wanted the toughest, fiercest and most threatening parliamentarian possible as their leader to take on Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

They picked Mulcair, whose nickname was "grizzly bear" when he sat as a provincial Liberal environment minister in the Quebec National Assembly.

And Mulcair's assignment includes not just savaging the Conservative government but also taking out the third place Liberal Party and keeping the Bloc Quebecois a spent separatist force in la belle province.

Because in choosing Mulcair, the NDP is going all in -- aiming to be in position to challenge the Conservatives for power in the 2015 federal election.

Smooth moves

It's a tall order and the fight has already started with the Conservative party issuing talking points to its MPs that trash talk Mulcair, claiming he is an "opportunist" with a "divisive personality."

Mulcair easily brushed this off during interviews immediately after winning the leadership with 57 per cent on the final ballot, laughing on television at Conservatives trying to label him an opportunist when he joined an NDP in 2007 that had no Quebec MPs, no organization and few members.

As for the "divisive" tag, Mulcair didn't need to even address it after leaving a stage where he raised the hand of his main opponent Brian Topp after the victory and shook hands with former leader Ed Broadbent, who had been sharply critical during the campaign.

Mulcair also wisely announced that Vancouver-East MP Libby Davies, a Topp endorser, would return as deputy leader, a post she and Mulcair jointly held under former leader Jack Layton.

Besides, Harper has given the term divisive new meaning in national politics since taking office and antagonizing wide and growing groups of Canadians, something that he will turbocharge with this Thursday's expected slash-and-burn Conservative budget.

Taking up Jack's fight

Thomas Mulcair is not the late, lamented Jack Layton, nor was any of the other contenders.

Jack himself wasn't the Layton of 2011 back in 2003, when he became NDP leader.

But Jack's eight years of leadership and learning created the conditions for Mulcair and the NDP to attempt what the party has always dreamed of -- forming a national government.

It will be an epic battle through 2015.

[Tags: Politics.]  [Tyee]

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