The House

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair preparing for all outcomes, including a minority

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair sits down with Chris Hall to talk about his plans and to explain how he plans to convince Canadians to elect a federal NDP government for the fist time.

Party consulting with experts amid tight 3-way race

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says, 'We have very smart, experienced people around us who are looking at the shape of things to come as we wait for our result.' (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he is consulting with experts and preparing to form a minority government after the Oct. 19 election, in the event his party wins the most seats but cannot get over the threshold for a majority government. 

"We're responsible people and we're preparing," Mulcair said in an interview with Chris Hall of CBC Radio's The House. "We have very smart, experienced people around us who are looking at the shape of things to come as we wait for our result.

"I think the constitutional conventions can be gone over in great detail. We know what they are, we'll let others look at them as well," Mulcair said. "We intend to form a majority NDP government," but acknowledged the party was prepared for other scenarios.

A minority government is the most likely result at this stage of the campaign, as each of the three main parties are hovering around the 30 per cent mark, according to the CBC's Poll Tracker.

The NDP continues to lead in Quebec but has struggled to make inroads in vote-rich Ontario. 

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has said he would step aside as prime minister if he does not win the most seats in the election. 

Softer stance on the Senate

During his interview, Mulcair also softened the language he has used to describe sitting senators. 

He has previously said he had "never" met a senator doing important parliamentary work, saying he believes the Senate does "absolutely nothing."

"It costs $100 million a year to keep those people doing nothing useful in a democracy. They do nothing of use for this country. Not only are they undemocratic and unelected — they're mostly defeated candidates.

"They've been rejected by the public," Mulcair had said in an interview with Rosemary Barton on CBC's Power & Politics in June. "What moral authority do they have to make laws for the rest of us?"

Mulcair backed away from that strong language during his interview with The House, saying that those comments were not referring to the senators themselves but rather to the institution.

"I've always been careful to talk about the institution which is undemocratic. I'm not talking about the former well-loved hockey coach or former national skiing star as an individual," Mulcair said.

He also confirmed there are senators who have approached the NDP and are willing to work with it to pass legislation if the party forms government.

He conceded it would "absolutely require" opening the Constitution to abolish the Senate and that he was unfazed by the reluctance many of the premiers have for dismantling the Red Chamber, saying he has the "temerity" to get the tough things done.

"Don't forget I sat for a long time with [Quebec Premier] Philippe Couillard," Mulcair said, referring to one of the provincial leaders who has raised red flags about abolishing the Senate.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair smiles as he meets with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in June 2015. Mulcair says that, if elected, he'll work with Couillard and other premiers to abolish the Senate. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press)

"We're friends; we were able to talk about this, and I understand his position exactly. But you know what? If I get a mandate on Oct. 19, it's going to be the strongest argument that I have to start dismantling this archaic institution that's a relic from our British colonial past." 

NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and face off on senate reform. 1:59

He dismissed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's plan to reform the Senate — rather than abolish it — calling it a "con job." 

"Mr. Trudeau says that the Liberal senators are no longer Liberal senators. They're now Senate Liberals. I don't think there is any difference there." 

Cap-and-trade could be flexible

The party's proposed national cap-and-trade program for emissions is another campaign promise that would require wrangling with the provinces. 

The NDP has said it will set up a national market of cap-and-trade certificates in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from polluting industries. The issue is that many provinces have already decided to impose their own regimes to put a price on carbon. More than 75 per cent of Canadians already live in a jurisdiction that has already decided to put a price on carbon, including B.C., Alberta, Quebec and Ontario. 

Some have posited — namely the Liberal Party — that the national program proposed by the NDP could stymie provincial innovation. 

While Mulcair has yet to release details of the NDP plan, Mulcair said there could be some flexibility for the provinces that already have their own programs in place. 

"I think the only way to ensure a reduction [in greenhouse gas emissions] is with cap and trade," Mulcair said. "But we're starting to get more and more information that some of the regimes [with a carbon tax] — B.C. is a good example — are actually starting to produce results as well.

"So, you have to look at the evidence. Unlike Mr. Harper, I actually believe in fact-based decision making. Mr. Harper believes in decision-based fact making."

Mulcair also added that the NDP's proposal would be revenue neutral and that if any excess money was collected it would be handed over to the province where it was collected.

This is a departure from the party's plan in the 2011 federal election, which envisaged imposing a price on carbon as a tool to generate government revenue.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.