Since Thomas Mulcair assumed the leadership of the NDP, much has been written about Stephen Harper having met his match. Others have speculated that, between them, Harper and Mulcair are plotting the demise of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Certainly Harper deserves the kind of opposition he will encounter in Mulcair. In many ways, Mulcair is an inverted Stephen Harper. Charles Pascal writes in today's Toronto Star that the two share remarkable similarities:
Harper and Mulcair will seem like two peas in the parliamentary pod. Yes, both have tempers, both behave smarter than others in “the room,” both are stubborn and neither seems comfortable in their own skin. It’s always hard for me to trust anyone who doesn’t know how to smile a natural smile, at least in public. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of the official Opposition seems to have a sense of humour about anything, especially themselves.
All of the speculation is premature. We will see if Tom Mulcair can laugh, not only at others, but at himself. Which brings us to Bob Rae -- who has no trouble laughing at human foibles, even his own. Pascal writes that the coming battle between Harper and Mulcair presents Rae and the Liberals with a significant opportunity:
Enter stage middle-left, Bob Rae, who will increasingly have his natural statesmanship persona exaggerated by the company he keeps in the House of Commons. Rae’s energy, intelligence, humour, experience and a likeability quotient in Quebec, the West and down east will serve him well if he stands back and lets the other boys try to outrant each other. He needs to let Mulcair and Harper penetrate each other’s skin, content on playing the role of the above-the-fray statesman and mediator offering up ideas that matter, while meticulously exposing the current government’s move away from traditional Canadian values.
No one on the international stage will pay Harper the compliment of being a statesman. And I suspect that international diplomats have already tagged John Baird as a buffoon. When Baird ordered that Lester Pearson's name be removed from Ministry of Foreign Affairs letterhead, his action spoke volumes.
One hopes that Rae will remind Canadians -- and those beyond Canada's borders -- of Mike Pearson and what he stood for.