Thomas Mulcair

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The Honourable
Thomas Mulcair
Thomas Mulcair, Lac des Castors, juin 2012.jpg
Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
March 24, 2012
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Nycole Turmel
Leader of the New Democratic Party
Assumed office
March 24, 2012
Preceded by Nycole Turmel (interim)
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Outremont
Assumed office
September 17, 2007
Preceded by Jean Lapierre
MNA for Chomedey
In office
September 12, 1994 – March 26, 2007
Preceded by Lise Bacon
Succeeded by Guy Ouellette
Quebec Minister of the Environment
In office
April 2003 – February 27, 2006
Preceded by André Boisclair
Succeeded by Claude Béchard
Personal details
Born Thomas Joseph Mulcair
(1954-10-24) October 24, 1954 (age 60)
Ottawa, Ontario
Nationality Canadian,
Political party New Democratic Party (federal, 1974-present)
Quebec Liberal Party (provincial, 1994-2007)
Spouse(s) Catherine Pinhas (m. 1976)
Residence Stornoway
Profession Lawyer, politician
Religion Roman Catholicism[1][2][3]

Thomas Joseph "Tom" Mulcair[4] PC MP (born October 24, 1954) is the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, as well as the Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada. An NDP Member of Parliament for the electoral district of Outremont in Quebec since 2007, he was selected as the leader of the NDP at a leadership election on March 24, 2012, with 57.2% of the votes on the fourth and final ballot.[5]

A lawyer by profession, Mulcair joined the federal NDP in 1974.[6] He was the provincial Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for the riding of Chomedey in Laval from 1994 to 2007, holding the seat for the Liberal Party of Quebec. He served as the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks from 2003 until 2006, in the Liberal government of Premier Jean Charest. Elected MP for Outremont in a by-election in 2007, he was named co-Deputy Leader of the NDP shortly afterwards, and has won re-election twice.

On May 26, 2011, he was named the New Democratic Party's Opposition House Leader and also served as the NDP's Quebec lieutenant, a post he held until named party leader. Prior to entering politics, Mulcair was a senior civil servant in the Quebec provincial government, ran a private law practice, and taught law at the university level.[7]

Early life, family, and education[edit]

Mulcair was born in 1954 at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, to a French-Canadian mother, Jeanne (née Hurtubise), and an Irish-Canadian father, Harry Donnelly Mulcair. He is the second-oldest of the couple's ten children, and grew up fluently bilingual. His maternal great-great-grandfather was the 9th Premier of Quebec, Honoré Mercier.[8] Mulcair was raised in the Wrightville district of Hull (now Gatineau) and in Laval, just north of Montreal. He graduated from Laval Catholic High School, and in Social Sciences from CEGEP Vanier College.[9]

Mulcair graduated from McGill University in 1977 with degrees in common law and civil law. During his penultimate year, he was elected president of the McGill Law Students Association, and sat on the council of the McGill Student Union. He has been married to Catherine Pinhas since 1976; she is a psychologist who was born in France to a Sephardic Jewish family from Turkey.[10][11] The couple have two sons; one is a police officer while the other is a physics teacher.[12][13]

Mulcair has dual citizenship and is both a Canadian citizen and a French citizen.[14] Mulcair may have acquired the latter through his marriage to his French-born wife, as French nationality law allows the spouse of a French citizen to apply for French citizenship after being married for five years, providing the applicant has sufficient knowledge of French, which Mulcair is a fluent speaker of.[15]

Early career[edit]

The couple moved to Quebec City in 1978, and Mulcair was called to the Bar of Quebec in 1979.[16] He worked in the Legislative Affairs branch in Quebec's Ministry of Justice and later in the Legal Affairs Directorate of the Superior Council of the French Language.[17]

In 1983 Mulcair became Director of Legal Affairs at Alliance Quebec.[18] In 1985 he began a private law practice, and was named the reviser of the statutes of Manitoba following the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Reference re Manitoba Language Rights case. Mulcair also taught law courses to non-law students at Concordia University (1984), at the Saint Lawrence Campus of Champlain Regional College in Sainte-Foy, and at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. He served as Commissioner of the Appeals Committee on the Language of Instruction (1986).

Mulcair was President of the Office des professions du Québec (1987 to 1993), where he introduced reforms to make disciplinary hearings more transparent and successfully led a major effort to have cases of alleged sexual abuse of patients decisively dealt with.[19][20] Mulcair was also a board member of the group Conseil de la langue française, and at the time of his appointment to the Office des Professions he had been serving as President of the English speaking Catholic Council.[21]

Provincial politics[edit]

He first entered the National Assembly in the 1994 election, winning the riding of Chomedey as a member of the Quebec Liberal Party. Mulcair claims he ran as a Liberal because at the time, it was the only credible federalist political party in Quebec.[6] The NDP's former provincial wing seceded to preach sovereigntism in 1989, and the NDP was not fully organized in Quebec until 2014. Mulcair was one of several federal NDP supporters from Quebec who supported the provincial Liberals. He was re-elected in 1998 and 2003.

When the Liberals ousted the Parti Québécois in the 2003 provincial election, newly elected Premier Jean Charest named Mulcair Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks. At the time of his appointment to Cabinet he had been serving on several volunteer boards including The Montreal Oral School for the Deaf, Operation Enfant Soleil and the Saint-Patrick's Society.[22] During his tenure he was a supporter of the Kyoto Protocol.

Mulcair accused former PQ minister Yves Duhaime of influence peddling. Duhaime filed a defamation suit in 2005 and Mulcair was ordered to pay $95,000, plus legal costs.[13] In 2010 the provincial police anti-corruption squad in Quebec contacted Mulcair to discuss a suspected 17-year-old bribe offered to him by the Mayor of Laval, Quebec.[23] Mulcair claims he never looked in the envelope and handed it back to the Mayor.[24]

Advocate for improved environmental rights[edit]

On November 25, 2004, Mulcair launched Quebec's Sustainable Development Plan and tabled a draft bill on sustainable development. Also included was a proposed amendment to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to create a new right, the right to live in a healthy environment that respects biodiversity, in accordance with the guidelines and standards set out in the Act.[25] Mulcair's Sustainable Development Plan was based on the successful European model and was described as one of the most avant-garde in North America.[26] Mulcair followed the proposal by embarking on a 21-city public consultation tour, and the Act was unanimously adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec in April 2006.

Accomplishments related to infrastructure included the completion of Autoroute 30 between Vaudreuil and Brossard, Autoroute 50 between Gatineau and Lachute, the widening of Route 175 between Stoneham and Saguenay, the widening of Route 185 from Rivière-du-Loup to the New Brunswick border and the introduction of a toll bridge which would complete Autoroute 25 between Montreal and Laval,[27] despite some public opposition by environmental groups.

Departure from cabinet[edit]

During a February 27, 2006 Cabinet shuffle, Charest offered Mulcair the position of Minister of Government Services in the Quebec government, and Mulcair chose to resign from cabinet rather than accept the apparent demotion.[28] There was speculation that his contrary opinion on a project that would have transferred lands in Mont Orford Provincial park to private condominium developers led to his removal as Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks.[22][29]

On February 20, 2007, he announced that he would not be a Liberal candidate in the 2007 Quebec general election.[30]

Federal politics[edit]

Thomas Mulcair during the 2008 election campaign

On April 20, 2007, Mulcair confirmed that he would run for the NDP in the next federal election.[31][32] His presence in the front row during a speech in Montreal by NDP Leader Jack Layton in March 2007 had already led to speculation.[33] He had previously given a speech at the Federal NDP Convention in Quebec City in September 2006.

Prior to this Mulcair had also contemplated joining a prominent law firm's environment section as well as having discussions to join the Office of the Prime Minister as an environmental adviser, although the later faltered once Mulcair discovered he would have to give up his support of the Kyoto Protocol. Stephen Harper's then press secretary Dimitri Soudas has said that Mulcair had also considered running as a Conservative candidate in the next federal election and only refused following a salary dispute, but Mulcair has denied this,[34] as have other senior Conservatives.[35]

Mulcair has identified former Quebec Liberal Party leader Claude Ryan as his political mentor.[36]

By-election win[edit]

Tom Mulcair celebrates his by-election win with Jack Layton

Mulcair also became Layton's Quebec lieutenant. On June 21, 2007, in an uncontested nomination, Mulcair became the NDP's candidate in the riding of Outremont for a by-election on September 17. Mulcair won the by-election, defeating Liberal candidate Jocelyn Coulon 48% to 29%; the seat had been a Liberal stronghold since 1935 (except for the 1988 election). Jean Lapierre suggested that Mulcair was likely aided by defecting Bloc Québécois supporters (the Bloc candidate had finished second in the 2006 federal election). In addition, Coulon's writings had been condemned by B'nai Brith Canada, and the local Jewish community in Outremont makes up 10% of the riding demographics.[37][38] The Conservatives focused their attacks on the leadership skills of Stéphane Dion, and there were allegations that Michael Ignatieff's supporters tried to sabotage the race for the Liberals to undermine Dion's leadership.[39][40][41]

Mulcair was only the second NDP Member of Parliament ever elected from Quebec, following Phil Edmonston in 1990 (one previous MP, Robert Toupin of Terrebonne, had crossed the floor to the NDP in 1986). Mulcair is also only the second non-Liberal ever to win Outremont, following Progressive Conservative Jean-Pierre Hogue in 1988.

Deputy leader[edit]

Mulcair was sworn in on October 12, 2007.[42] Earlier, he was named co-deputy leader of the NDP along with Libby Davies.[43]

On October 14, 2008, Mulcair was re-elected as the MP for Outremont, making him the first New Democrat to win a riding in Quebec during a federal general election. He defeated the federal Liberal candidate, Sébastien Dhavernas, by 14,348 votes to 12,005 (a margin of 6.4%).[44]

In the 2011 federal election, despite facing a strong challenge from Liberal Martin Cauchon, a former federal justice minister, Mulcair was re-elected once more with 56.4% of the popular vote, 21,916 to 9,204. The NDP became the Official Opposition for the first time ever, mainly on the strength of winning 59 of Quebec's 75 ridings, including Mulcair's.

Leadership race[edit]

Thomas Mulcair gives his acceptance speech after being named NDP leader on March 24, 2012

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton died on August 22, 2011, following a battle with cancer, and was honoured with a state funeral. Mulcair stated that Layton's death had hit him exceptionally hard, and that while he was considering a federal NDP leadership bid, he would need several weeks to make up his mind on that decision.[45] On October 13, 2011, at a press conference in suburban Montreal, Mulcair declared his candidacy for the federal NDP leadership, scheduled for March 23–24, 2012. He attracted the support of 60 of the 101 other federal NDP MPs,[46] including Robert Chisholm[47] and Romeo Saganash,[48] the only two to have dropped out of the leadership race.

Just prior to the convention opening, Brian Topp and Ed Broadbent, both defined the race as staying true to the NDP cause, by going with Topp, or moving to the centre and away from its current principles by going with Thomas Mulcair. Pundits had comparisons with New Labour in Britain under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, with Mulcair's stance on the party.[49][50][51]

Nevertheless, entering balloting day pundits predicted that Mulcair would receive support in the first round between 30 and 35 percent, though some people in the Mulcair camp predicted 40 percent. Pundits expected a clear multi-ballot win if Mulcair received 35 percent or more, and a multi-ballot slugout if his share was nearer 30 percent, which would allow other challengers to potentially catch up and beat him.[52][53]

On the fourth and final ballot, Thomas Mulcair was elected NDP leader with 57.2% of the vote, beating challenger Brian Topp's 42.8%.[54][55]

Leader of HM Loyal Opposition and the NDP[edit]

Tom Mulcair at the Rally for Change

On April 18, 2012, Mulcair moved into Stornoway, with his wife, Catherine Pinhas.[56] On September 14, 2012, he was sworn in as a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, and is entitled to the style "The Honourable" for life.[57]

His first year as leader of the NDP was plagued with several prominent defections. Thunder Bay—Superior North MP Bruce Hyer opted to sit as an independent after being disciplined for voting in favour of the dissolution of the Canadian Firearms Registry, a position counter to one strongly championed by Mulcair.[58] Jonquière—Alma MP Claude Patry later defected to the Bloc Québécois after disagreeing with the NDP's position to amend the Clarity Act, another policy which was strongly promoted by Mulcair.[59] These defections followed the floor crossing of Lise St-Denis to the federal Liberals, which occurred before Mulcair was elected.[60] The NDP did however manage to retain their seat in Victoria following the results of a close by-election.[61]

Key policy declarations included a more supportive policy on free trade, a strong reversal from previous NDP leaders.[62] Mulcair also strongly opposed plans for the creation of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, which included travelling to Washington D.C. to lobby against American approval of Keystone, and instead promoted the creation of a pipeline to carry western Canadian oil to be refined on Canada's east coast.[63] Commentators gave mixed reactions on his performance upon his first anniversary as NDP leader in March 2013, praising his discipline but also questioning several of his policy positions and choices.[64][65]

Thomas Mulcair and Whitby-Oshawa NDP candidate Trish McAuliffe campaigning during a November 2014 by-election

With the Mike Duffy expenses controversy and other scandals related to the Senate of Canada erupting into the public consciousness, the NDP reasserted its position on Senate abolition, proposing two bills that would either seek to abolish the Senate outright or cut off its funding. Mulcair was also praised for his performance in Parliament during the aftermath of these events, helping reinforce the NDP as Canada's leading voice against the Senate, as well as being seen as the main benefactor of the problems these controversies have caused Stephen Harper's Conservative government.[66][67]

Nevertheless, following the election of Justin Trudeau as leader of the Liberals in April 2013 the political fortunes of the NDP appeared to be on the decline, with the party falling back to its traditional third place in public opinion polls.[68] The party would go on to lose a June 2014 by-election to the Liberals in the previously safe riding of Trinity-Spadina, which was made vacant following incumbent Olivia Chow's decision to run unsuccessfully in the 2014 Toronto mayoral election.[69] Despite these setbacks Mulcair himself continued to receive significant praise for his work as Opposition leader, with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney calling Mulcair "the best Opposition leader since John Diefenbaker."[70]

By May 2015 however the NDP had managed to recover much of its lost ground in public opinion polling and was finding itself in a tight three-way race with both the Liberals and Conservatives.[71][72] Commentators pegged several factors, including Mulcair's opposing stance against the Conservative's Bill C-51 which the Liberals agreed to support and the surprise win for the Alberta NDP in the 2015 Alberta provincial election, as having helped revive the federal party's lagging fortunes.[73][74][75] The party also enjoyed marked success in getting two of its bills through the House at this time, the first of which abolished the so called "tampon tax" tax on feminine hygiene products,[76] while the second banned the use of "pay-to-pay" fees charged by banks,[77] although the latter was later blocked from the House floor by the Conservatives.[78]

Political positions[edit]

Women's rights[edit]

As NDP Finance Critic, Mulcair was critical of Stephen Harper’s 2009 budget because of “pay equity reforms which he said would remove the right of women to go to court to demand equal pay for work of equal value”.[79] He said that “the NDP could never support a budget package that maintained that sort of measure”.[79]

In 2014, as NDP leader, Mulcair announced that an “an NDP government would launch a national public enquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women within 100 days of taking office”.[80] Mulcair believes that “only a full public inquiry would get to the root causes of violence against aboriginal women”.[81]

Mulcair stated at a conference in Quebec that people with an anti-abortion stance are not welcome to run for NDP, saying "it’s not debatable, it’s not negotiable, it is a woman’s right to determine her own health questions and her reproductive choices."[82]

First Nations[edit]

Tom Mulcair and Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde at the AFN General Assembly

In response to the Idle No More movement, Mulcair said that the NDP would put a filter on decisions made to ensure that they respect court rulings and international obligations to First Nations in Canada.[83] He has also pledged to call a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women within 100 days of taking office, if his party is elected to government.[84]

Mulcair called for a “nation-to-nation” relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on residential schools. He said his “number 1” priority would be to improve First Nations education.[85]

Public safety[edit]

Mulcair has been critical of Conservative public safety policy, saying cuts to food inspection and aeronautical safety have put Canadians at risk.[86] He also “criticized previous governments for allowing rail companies to police their own safety and called on Ottawa to take a more active role in doing that job” after the Lac Mégantic tragedy in Quebec.[87]

Mulcair supports the longstanding NDP policy to decriminalize personal use of marijuana.[88] Mulcair has stated that he does not believe that someone should serve jail time for minimal possession of marijuana; but he has also stated that he does not support legalization.[89]

Foreign Policy[edit]

Mulcair believes that Canada can be a “positive force for peace, justice and respect for human rights around the world.” [90]

During a policy speech in May 2015, Mulcair announced the NDP would “increase overall funding for development assistance and ensure that poverty alleviation remains at the centre of Canadian aid efforts.”[91]

Mulcair has been an opponent of Canada’s involvement in the combat mission in Iraq.[92]

In his time as NDP leader, Mulcair has promoted “a balanced and principled approach” [90] to the conflict in the Middle East, criticizing “Stephen Harper and the Conservatives’ one-sided approach”.[90] In a Gala held in Montreal in April 2008, Mulcair stated that he was "an ardent supporter of Israel in all instances and circumstances.” [93] On July 22, 2014, Mulcair issued a statement where he reiterated his strong support for a ceasefire and negotiated two state solution during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.[94] Mulcair is also opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel calling it "grossly unacceptable".[95] In reaction to Mulcair's strong pro-Israeli stance, Sana Hassainia one of the New Democratic Party's members in the Canadian House of Commons left the party on August 20, 2014 and is now representing the electoral district of Verchères—Les Patriotes as an independent.[96][97]

Economic policy[edit]

Tom Mulcair visiting Cambridge’s Innovative Steam Technologies

Mulcair supports lowering the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% because they create “80% of all new jobs in this country”.[98] He said an NDP government would “create an innovation tax credit to encourage manufacturers to invest in machinery, equipment and property used in research and development.”[99]

In 2014, Mulcair said that the “only people not paying their fair share are corporations."[100] He believes that "they’ve been given a massive tax cut under the Conservatives.”

Mulcair praised the work of Manitoba's NDP government for slashing income taxes for small businesses, saying that the province had one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada due to small business creating jobs.[83] Mulcair also stated that he will not increase personal income taxes for the super-rich, despite NDP candidate Linda McQuaig's wanting to do so.[101]

Electoral record[edit]

Quebec general election, 1994: Chomedey
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Thomas Mulcair 25,885 67.70 +14.31
Parti Québécois Lidi Costache 9,239 24.16 −0.44
Action démocratique Gaétane Piché 1,997 5.22
Equality Gary Brown 353 0.92 −17.69
Economic Richard Gagné 243 0.64
CANADA! Benjamin Simhon 212 0.55
Commonwealth of Canada John Ajemian 154 0.40
Natural Law John Wolter 150 0.39
Quebec general election, 1998: Chomedey
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Thomas Mulcair 28,293 69.87 +2.17
Parti Québécois Monia Prévost 8,869 21.90 −2.26
Action démocratique Vicken Darakdjian 2,768 6.84 +1.62
Equality Pierre Fortier 368 0.91 −0.01
Socialist Democracy Jean-Pierre Roy 195 0.48
Quebec general election, 2003: Chomedey
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Thomas Mulcair 25,363 71.10 +1.23
Parti Québécois Coline Chhay 6,568 18.41 −3.49
Action démocratique Vicken Darakdjian 3,384 9.49 +2.65
Marxist–Leninist Polyvios Tsakanikas 210 0.59
Equality Robert Tamilia 148 0.41 −0.50
Canadian federal by-election, September 17, 2007: Outremont
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
New Democratic Thomas Mulcair 11,374 47.50 +30.03 $76,194
Liberal Jocelyn Coulon 6,933 28.96 −6.22 $72,539
Bloc Québécois Jean-Paul Gilson 2,618 10.93 −18.08 $57,717
Conservative Gilles Duguay 2,052 8.57 −4.16 $66,401
Green François Pilon 529 2.21 −2.61 $169 François Yo Gourd 145 0.61 $1,774
Independent Mahmood Raza Baig 78 0.33 $45
Independent Jocelyne Leduc 61 0.25 $6
Independent Romain Angeles 46 0.19 $157
Canadian Action Alexandre Amirizian 45 0.19 $0
Independent Régent Millette 32 0.13 +0.08 none listed
Independent John Turmel 30 0.13 none listed
Total valid votes 23,943 100.00
Total rejected ballots 175 0.73 +0.03
Turnout 24,118 37.43 −23.35
Electors on the lists 64,438
New Democratic gain Swing −18.3
Canadian federal election, 2008: Outremont
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
New Democratic Thomas Mulcair 14,348 39.53 −7.97 $69,072
Liberal Sébastien Dhavernas 12,005 33.08 +4.12 $45,118
Bloc Québécois Marcella Valdivia 4,554 12.55 +1.62 $48,279
Conservative Lulzim Laloshi 3,820 10.53 +1.96 $24,421
Green François Pilon 1,566 4.31 +2.10 not listed
Total valid votes 36,293 100.00
Total rejected ballots 253 0.69
Turnout 36,546 56.11 +18.68
Electors on the lists 64,556
New Democratic hold Swing −6.05
Source: Official Voting Results, 40th General Election 2008, Elections Canada
Canadian federal election, 2011: Outremont
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
New Democratic Thomas Mulcair 21,906 56.37 +16.84 $80,457
Liberal Martin Cauchon 9,204 23.69 −9.39 $51,130
Conservative Rodolphe Husny 3,408 8.77 −1.76 $18,319
Bloc Québécois Élise Daoust 3,199 8.23 −4.32 $10,456
Green François Pilon 838 2.16 −2.15 $4,578
Rhinoceros Tommy Gaudet 160 0.41  
Communist Johan Boyden 143 0.37  
Total valid votes 38,858 100.00
Total rejected ballots 291 0.74 +0.05
Turnout 39,149 60.46 +4.35
Electors on the lists 65,573
Source: Official Voting Results, 41st General Election 2011, Elections Canada
NDP Federal Leadership 2012
Candidate First Ballot  % Second Ballot  % Third Ballot  % Fourth Ballot  %
Thomas Mulcair 19,728 30.30 23,902 38.25 27,488 43.82 33,881 57.22
Brian Topp 13,915 21.37 15,624 25.0 19,822 31.6 25,329 42.78
Nathan Cullen 10,671 16.39 12,449 19.92 15,426 24.59 eliminated
Peggy Nash 8,353 12.83 10,519 16.83 eliminated
Paul Dewar 4,883 7.50 withdrew
Martin Singh 3,821 5.87 withdrew
Niki Ashton 3,737 5.74 eliminated
Romeo Saganash withdrew
Total 65,108 100 62,494 100 62,736 100 59,210 100


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