The McGill Daily (MD): One of the important issues in Quebec, and on campus right now, is the student movement concerning tuition hikes. What are your thoughts on this?
Thomas Mulcair (TM): I respect the fact that, first and foremost, education is a provincial jurisdiction, and an important thing in our constitution and our country. On the other hand, I come from a family of ten children, and I know I would never have been able to get two law degrees from a university like McGill if I didn’t come from a province that has always put a lot of money into post-secondary education – that’s why Quebec tuition fees remain below the national average. At the same time, we have to realize the federal government can and should be playing a more active role, given the importance of post-secondary education, and especially of research. So I think that the federal government can play a role more actively in making sure the money is there.
MD: The issue of student engagement in politics is really important right now. What are your thoughts on this movement?
TM: I am always very impressed by the involvement of youth in terms of civil society, in terms of their own role in activism, in terms of having their own voices heard in the street, as it is now. At the same time, if you look at the statistics of last May’s election, it is disquieting to see that 18 to 25 year olds across Canada stayed home; about two-thirds of them did not bother to vote. So, while I will always encourage people to stay involved in civil society and community groups and environmental groups, and to work in their local community or even worldwide in other movements. We have to realize that the decisions being taken in Victoria and Regina and Quebec City and in Fredericton are affecting your lives, decisions being taken in Ottawa. Your generation is having the largest ecological, environmental, economic, and social debt in Canada’s history being dropped into your backpacks, and you’re being told by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives that you can’t do anything about it. We in the NDP are convinced you can… I think that is an important message to maintain, that you also have to be involved in the political process in one way or another.
MD: There have been claims leveled against you that you want to move the party towards the centre or modify the NDP constitution.
TM: No, I never said either of those things. Some of my adversaries have said that I wanted to move the party towards the centre. What I have said is I want to move the centre toward the party, and that is precisely what I was explained before. Reaching out beyond our traditional base, talking with people who have stopped voting or don’t vote, or people who haven’t voted for us in the past. That would include cultural communities, that would include First Nations, and, yes, of course I want more people involved in voting for us. So we have to change our way of expressing ourselves… People in the NDP wanted us to adapt, wanted us to listen to local voices, local concerns, local priorities.
MD: Charmaine Borg and Lauren Liu, part of the “McGill Five,” both worked on your campaign in May, but didn’t support you in the leadership race. Why do you think that is?
TM: You know, with seven members of the NDP caucus running, people would go in different directions. I also realize that several of them also did vote for me. Overall I had by far the largest number of members of our caucus supporting me, and I had by far the majority of Quebec members of the NDP caucus supporting me, and I am thrilled with that support. I mean, the fact that some members of the caucus would go with other candidates is frankly a healthy sign, that there are a variety of points of view, and I think that’s just a part of a good leadership race.
MD: Now that the race is over and you have won the leadership, what are some things that you are looking forward to dealing with next?
TM: The biggest thing for me is working with our caucus on sustainable development – a completely new approach to our economy – and making sure that our generation assumes the costs of what is being done now. We think that the best way for us to be moving forward is to be with sustainable development, making sure that every government decision takes into account the environmental, the economic, and the social.
MD: Where do you see the NDP in five years time?
TM: In power.
—Compiled by Jordan Venton-Rublee