Thomas Mulcair's message to Hamilton's NDP party faithful was clear on Tuesday night – yes, we've felt optimistic before, but this time, we could actually win.
The federal NDP leader called out to supporters who have boosted the party for 40 and 50 years in Hamilton, a city that has been a long-time stronghold for a party that has never governed. This fall's election is for them, he said.
"This election is about people…who've been toiling in the trenches for years," he told the crowd of more than 400 at Hamilton Convention Centre. The rally was part of a tour of southwestern Ontario.
Canadians are hungry for change, he said. And when the election happens this fall, he promised, victory will be theirs.
'What happened in Alberta had a huge psychological impact.' - Gordon Guyatt, long-time NDP supporter
Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader and Hamilton Centre MPP, echoed that sentiment as she prepped the cheering crowd.
The optimism appealed to local stalwarts such as Gordon Guyatt, a McMaster University doctor and professor who ran for the NDP four times in the Ancaster-Flamborough-Dundas-Westdale area. Three times, he placed a distant third. The other, he placed fourth.
Guyatt agreed that this is the best shot the party has ever had.
"What happened in Alberta had a huge psychological impact," he said, referring to the recent electoral victory of NDP premier Rachel Notley. "It was perceived to be an ultra-conservative province and it elected an NDP premier. That really made an impression on people."
Eileen Shannon of Dundas has supported the party for 40 years, always without seeing a federal victory. The NDP forming the official opposition was once "considered an impossibility," she said. But it likely led to the NDP winning Alberta. She's more optimistic than ever now.
Mulcair's speech touched on various platform topics, including child care, a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour and Bill C-51.
He also gave a shout out to Hamilton's newest legal battle — taking Canada Post to appeals court over the right to give input on the locations of community mailboxes. The NDP have pledged to scrap the plan to eliminate door-to-door mail delivery.
Not everyone bought into Mulcair's optimism. In a media release Tuesday evening, Liberal candidate Bob Bratina said Mulcair's plan ignores the middle class and won't help struggling Hamiltonians.
The promise of a federal minimum wage is "deliberately misleading," Bratina's statement said. "It would only apply to less than one per cent of the Canadian workforce."
"Justin Trudeau is clear that two of the biggest priorities for any prime minister are growing the economy and unifying the country, and he's the only one offering the new leadership and a plan for real change to do just that. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Thomas Mulcair's NDP."
The city has also battled the federal government over its desire to see an agreement the federal government inked with U.S. Steel when it bought Stelco in 2007. In May, an Ontario court judge ruled that the agreement should stay sealed.
Scott Duvall, a federal NDP candidate for Hamilton Mountain and ward councillor who chairs the city's steel committee, said he hoped to speak to Mulcair after the rally about the issue.
If elected, he said, he will join Hamilton Centre MPP David Christopherson in calling on the agreement to be unsealed.