February 23, 2014

Thomas Mulcair ~ at Kwantlen University in Richmond

It wasn't an Orange Wave, nor an Orange Crush, this thing that happened at work last week.

Through the halls of the Richmond Campus, my home campus, there wasn't much notice of "The President's Dialogue" though signs were up.

Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the federal New Democratic Party, and the Official Opposition, visited KPU Richmond this week. It was the first in a series of "dialogues" initiated by KPU President Alan Davis. We don't know who might be part of future "dialogues" but according to Davis, they will be notable and Tom Mulcair was only the first. His visit might possibly be due to the fact that one of Mr Mulcair's early supporters in his leadership bid, and a dedicated member at the executive level, is also an instructor at KPU: Heather Harrison.

The media were out for this event and it all speaks well for Mr Davis and KPU. Mr Davis would like to create a buzz around the University, and himself of course, and he might well be on to something.

Much of the hour was devoted to environmental issues, and Mr Mulcair spoke eloquently and with great substance on the topic. He was articulate and thoughtful in every response to the questions from Mr Davis. In fact, listening to Mr Mulcair I couldn't help but remember another leader from Quebec who spoke with just as much eloquence and with the same sort of intellectual intelligence: Pierre Trudeau.

Mr Mulcair was witty and charming, but most of all he was thoughtful and intelligent; there weren't any simple answers to complex questions, no matter how they were posed, and Mr Mulcair treated his audience with respect. Soundbites were hard to identify; this is not a politician of few words nor simple slogans, and that might be a problem.

At the very beginning, before the introductions and certainly before the media witnessed the event for us to view through their eyes, Tom Mulcair entered the room quietly and without fanfare. A crowd was seated in advance of the "dialogue" and Mr Mulcair walked down every row, introducing himself and shaking hands. Some would have us believe Mr Mulcair lacks charisma, and they might be right. But what is political charisma in a digital world? Is the physical touch still valid in a world where the virtual is the new reality? Where nothing happens unless someone twitters about it? Does style always trump substance, especially in a digital universe? In the case of Mr Mulcair and his message, that would be a shame.

It's going to be a long campaign.    
Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

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