It’s almost as hard to figure out who Tom Mulcair isn’t as it is to determine who he is. I briefly thought of Boromir or Dumbledore; both had beards, neither got to cross the finish line but had a big influence on the outcome. But I finally decided Mulcair is not Hagrid. Nor is he Will Riker.
Both of them had beards, too, of course, plus frequent, if sometimes forced, grins. Both were prone to outburst of outrage and anger but had a finer side. Both served admirably in their role as lieutenants – helping the leader while seldom aspiring to take the leadership role over themselves.
Mulcair was a good Minister of Environment and made a major contribution in that field both in Quebec and nationally (and we know how much Hagrid loved nature – or at least dragons). He was Jack Layton’s Quebec lieutenant and contributed significantly to the Orange Wave that swept Quebec.
But unlike Hagrid and Riker, Mulcair definitely wants the centre chair. He very much wants to be Prime Minister. Some people in Canada find such naked ambition uncomfortable. What nonsense! Would you really want someone as Prime Minister who doesn’t want the job, who isn’t keen to do the job? “Oh, hi, tell the Cabinet I’m not coming in because I’d rather re-shingle the roof.” For those who don’t know, Mulcair worked as a roofer during his university days – better than being a mail clerk for Imperial Oil I guess – which I suppose gives him some related experience as a cabinet maker. He needs it.
Mulcair sometimes, so we are told, has difficulty working with teams – though I suspect he is better at it than Harper has been shown to be. It’s not clear that his Cabinet will have sufficiently strong voices to function as a Cabinet should – as a defender of a variety of interests and a sounding board that the PM can trust to tell him when he’s wrong. He always strikes me as the guy who gives advice rather than takes it. But it would be (would have been?) interesting to see if that was true.
I always remember wanting Hagrid, and especially Riker, to be better than he was and often they lived up to that hope. So maybe Mulcair would have too – though his relatively weak and unfocussed campaign suggests not. Or maybe, Mulcair was simply too careful, unwilling to throw caution to the wind (as the people he is not often did) and simply be himself. Would the NDP have done better in this campaign if Mulcair had been more willing ‘”to boldly go” where no New Democrat had gone before?
I’m convinced of one thing though. Mulcair is no quitter. If he finishes third – but maintains historically high numbers of seats – I think he’ll be around for another fight. And, in that fight, he may finally reveal exactly who and what he is.
So, Tom Mulcair is not Hagrid. And he is not Riker. But he might be Gandalf.
And that’s ten minutes.