Let’s get one thing clear, right now: for the Canadian electorate, there is no such thing as only one choice. The voters will always demand that there be an alternative, and for right now, as of August (and admittedly this will probably change during the next couple of months) the NDP are it. And Tom Mulcair knows this.
The way he’s going to keep being the preferred alternative is to say things that, upon reflection, voters will agree make sense. As he’s done here:
“I think that nothing would be better than for the private sector to get together and put everything in place to have a Major League Baseball team (in Montreal),” he said. “But in a society that knows still to this day far too much poverty and when I have hundreds of thousands of children going to school hungry, it’s hard to understand that the taxpayer would be asked to fork over money for franchises that are worth billions.”
From the Left’s perspective, of course this makes sense: sports franchises are commercial, mostly private-sector-driven ventures, and if the private sector’s done its homework properly they shouldn’t need help from the government to land a major-league sports franchise for a city. But it’s also a logic that makes sense to the Right, for mostly the same reasons as well as a few more pragmatic ones: they’ve seen the lessons that other cities like Beijing and London have learned regarding major sports events, and no one’s willing to strain civic finances on a bet that a few thousand people will pay hundreds of dollars to see a millionaire try to swat an apple-sized pellet with a wooden stick.
But Mulcair’s also being brave here because he’s essentially saying “no” to a pernicious form of Quebec nostalgia, a harkening for return to the days when the Expos were a force to be reckoned with in Montreal and Guy Lafleur ruled the roost as the leader of the Quebec Nordiques. Quebec politicians have always tapped into this vein of nationalism for support, and Mulcair’s refusal to do the same is his recognition that his party has to do more — much more — than regional pandering.
Certainly he sounds more sure of his agenda than does Justin “My deficits will be better because they’re Liberal deficits” Trudeau. Which makes him, for right now, the more attractive political alternative.
(Note to Tory partisans: yes, Mulcair’s said stupid things, and he’ll say more stupid things before the campaign’s over. But if you want Stephen Harper to win a second majority, you’d be far better off defending his achievements and trumpeting his record than re-hashing old attacks on political rivals that voters have already tuned out.)