Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pop quiz

Michael Den Tandt and John Geddes are convinced that Tom Mulcair's speech to the Economic Club of Canada yesterday represents both a massive sea change in Canadian politics, and a response to the NDP's newfound lead in the polls. So let's offer a pop quiz to see if that theory holds up to scrutiny.

The following passages are from speeches Mulcair delivered:
(a) to the Economic Club of Canada in April 2012;
(b) to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in February 2013;
(c) to the Economic Club of Canada in January 2015; and
(d) to the Economic Club of Canada in June 2015.

Can you match the date with the passage to determine which speeches represented the unremarkable status quo ante, and which "willy-nilly upset the apple cart" and represented a new " forestall a worried reaction to his emergence as a serious challenger"?

As New Democrats, we believe in a vision for sustainable, long-term growth that will create wealth and prosperity here...

Not just for today, but for generations to come.

That means building a diversified economy that includes value-added jobs and thriving export industries.

It means upgrading and refining our own natural resources...instead of building pipelines to ship raw bitumen overseas.

It means making polluters pay for the pollution they create rather than leaving that cleanup to future generations.

And it means developing a coherent and strategic vision that creates the right environment for foreign investment… while ensuring a well-defined “net benefit” to Canada.

Industry has also begun to realize that we can no longer disconnect principles like these from the bottom line.
I don't believe budgets balance themselves, nor do I believe they become balanced just because you pass a law – zap (you're) balanced.
But I do believe that it is fundamentally important that the federal government live within its means.
In the NDP, that idea goes back to the beginning.
I come from the school of Tommy Douglas who balanced 17 budgets in a row while he ushered in Medicare.
Or Roy Romanow, who rescued Saskatchewan from bankruptcy with prudent fiscal management.
Or Manitoba’s Gary Doer, who has the best track record of any Premier in the modern era for balanced budgets.

And you don't have to take our word for it.

The federal Department of Finance’s own reports show that NDP governments are the best at balancing the books when in office.
Our first task, therefore, must be to convince Canadians that New Democrats will be competent public administrators.

Not the most exciting campaign slogan, I know, but with nearly 35 years in public service, when it comes to public administration, I have a record to run on.

Beyond restoring basic competence, we must also conduct ourselves with a genuine respect for the role of government.

Government can’t do everything. But while maintaining a healthy respect for its limitations, we should also acknowledge that government is the place we come together to build the better, fairer Canada we all want.
I believe in growing the economy through prudent, strategic investments and sound fiscal policy. Policies that attract investment and stimulate the creation of stable, full-time jobs.

For example, the New Democratic Party has an open and progressive approach to international trade. We support the free trade agreement with South Korea, and the agreement in principle with Europe.

The goal is to put the emphasis back on sustainable economic growth. Growth that will help not only today’s middle class, but our children and grandchildren. This means building a diversified economy that focuses on the creation of value-added jobs.

When we consider recent events – the job losses, the closures, the withdrawing of investment, and skyrocketing of household debt I believe that the focus of our response must be on the hard-working families who feel the effects of these events day-in and day-out.

Their struggles will always guide my priorities.

With strategic investments and a concrete plan, we can provide the squeezed middle class with a stronger economy and better shock absorbers to ensure they weather the storm in the coming months and years ahead.
The correct answers are : (a)-3, (b)-1, (c)-4, (d)-2.

Feel free to peruse the speeches as a whole to see if there's some difference missed in the above passages. But it's certainly worth asking: is there any truth to the claim that there's a radical difference in the NDP's economic message? Or is that simply a matter of pundits changing their own emphasis to suit a narrative or outright ignoring what Mulcair has said before, even as Mulcair (possibly unlike some of his opponents) stays broadly consistent?


  1. Seems fairly consistent, and consistent with the general impressions I've gotten from him. I could wish he weren't quite so positive about "free trade" agreements which will frankly make some of the other stuff he's saying impossible, or at least illegal and subject to massive lawsuits from foreign companies. But it isn't something he's been going back and forth on, he's been, unfortunately, talking like that all along.

    1. An NDP-negotiated trade agreement will be significantly different from those that have gone before in that the party has stated that an NDP government would not negotiate a trade agreement that includes investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms.

    2. PLG: Agreed there's plenty of work to be done in ensuring that Mulcair (a) avoids wasting more time than he can avoid on further agreements, and (b) ensures that anything he does pursue does more good than harm. And the choice to treat agreements generally from a neutral-to-positive rather than a skeptical point of view certainly isn't ideal from either standpoint.

      Meanwhile Rilke, that's certainly one reason for optimism when it comes to what the NDP would be expected to negotiate.