Q&A with Tom Mulcair: We have a plan to deal with radicalization

Tom Mulcair

Who will be Canada’s next prime minister? 

As election day draws near, The CJN speaks to the four party leaders about domestic security, Israel, Iran, BDS, the economy and more  

Click here for interview with Conservative leader Stephen Harper

Click here for interview with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau

Click here for interview with Green Party leader Elizabeth May

The CJN: How is your campaign going thus far?

Tom Mulcair: We’re thrilled. We started this week in southwestern Ontario in six Conservative ridings, and we have every intention of winning each and every one of them – those are the ridings hardest hit by the job losses in manufacturing. 

We started in Brantford, Ont. We went to Waterloo, Ont. We went to Stratford. We went to London, Sarnia and Essex. And it was an amazing tour. We met thousands and thousands of people who were buoyed by the NDP’s message of hope and to do things differently – to get back to a balanced economy and start creating good jobs.

Mr. Harper wants to kill off tens of thousands of new jobs with his [Trans-Pacific Partnership] trade deal. We try to remind people that that’s not just a number – each one of those job losses represents a family that loses its livelihood, a community where there’s nobody going to the restaurant anymore, more small businesses suffering and closing down. So it’s a whole new approach that we’re proposing, and we’re very uplifted by the reaction we’re getting.

In your view, how is this campaign different from previous ones?

What’s different this time around is that there’s hope. 

You know, after 148 years of being told we have no choice but to alternate between the Liberals and the Conservatives, there’s hope. There’s an NDP government in waiting, because, for the first time in our history, we’re the official Opposition. 

People are looking at us differently. They’re very demanding in terms of asking us to show our numbers and how our plan differs from those of Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau. 

But, as I say, the week started in southwestern Ontario with a tremendous reception. Yesterday, we were in B.C., and, again, things are going super-well for the NDP in British Columbia. And today, I’m in Edmonton. I had a great reception at the Assembly of First Nations. I couldn’t be prouder of that.

When it comes to domestic security, what will your party do to ensure the security of Canadians?

I’ll give you a concrete example. We were in Surrey, B.C., a couple of weeks ago, where we’re running a man named Garry Begg, who is a former very high-level RCMP officer, a superintendent in the area, and he represents our understanding that communities like Surrey are very concerned about policing issues.

In Surrey, in one three-month period in the spring, there were 30 shootings. So we’ve got a plan to bring in 2,500 police officers across the country. We have a plan, also, to start dealing with radicalization, which we know is a real source of concern. But there’s nothing on deradicalization in Stephen Harper’s Bill C51. 

And I also think that we have to have a clear plan for combating anti-Semitism. And we know that we’ve had different attacks on synagogues in my hometown of Montreal over the years. This is something that I personally intend to see to.

What is your view of the Iran deal? If you are elected prime minister, how would you go about trying to influence change in Tehran’s behaviour? What is Canada’s role to play on this issue?

I think we need to take a very strong stance that this deal has to be enforced rigorously. There’s absolutely no room for mistake.

I know that Iran’s nuclear ambitions pose a real and present danger, not only to regional peace and security but to global peace and security. I read about Iran’s horrible anti-Semitic statements. I know who I’m dealing with.

But at the same time, the agreement reached by the P5 +1 [countries] does show that if you apply yourself and you believe in getting results, you can achieve that through diplomatic channels. So after decades of hostility, there’s some hope that we can reign in nuclear ambitions in Iran. 

But again, we have to take a very tough approach on enforcement.

Where does the NDP stand on Israel, and the balance between security for the Jewish state and peace with the Palestinians?

I think that Canada can and should be playing a role. I think that a Canada that is respected on the world stage can play a more positive role, if asked to do so, in the region.

Israel and Palestine have to be two states that would live in peace and security, with established and negotiated borders. The NDP has for a long time called to work with our partners for peace in the Middle East, with a safe country for Israelis and a safe country for Palestinians. 

We also know, as I’ve always said, that it has to be within a framework of international law and United Nations resolution.

Where do you stand on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement?

I think it’s absurd, and I disagree with it. Our focus is achieving real progress in the peace process – lifting countries in this region up, not putting Israel down.

Poverty is an important issue for the Jewish community. What would your government do to help alleviate poverty in Canada?

The values of social democratic NDP are the values of the Jewish community – it’s a community that always comes together, that will fight hard to make sure that seniors don’t live in poverty. 

So, with regards to our seniors, the NDP has a clear plan to lift seniors out of poverty. We have several hundred thousand seniors living in real poverty in Canada. We have a plan to put $400 million a year more into what’s called the Guaranteed Income Supplement, to help them. 

We’ve also got a very large commitment to get affordable, decent housing. It’s almost always women who wind up in those situations of poverty, and we’ve got to understand that as well.

Finally, what is your message to Jewish voters across this country?

My message is that I’m the only leader in this campaign who has a strong family connection to the Jewish community. Both of my wife’s parents survived the Holocaust. She has family in Israel.

For me, this is not just a theoretical issue. It’s a very personal one.

I also know that the party I have the honour of leading connects a great deal with the Jewish community on the level of values. Taking care of others – those are fundamental values that I’ve always encountered in the Jewish community. And giving to others – generosity. That’s the same type of approach that the NDP has always taken.

I was just given an example this week where the Jewish community has been working very hard to help bring in Syrian refugees from Jordan. I think that’s one of the most beautiful and telling Canadian stories I’ve heard in a long time. That’s the Canada that I know exists. 

I want a Canada where we respect our democratic institutions at home, and where our international reputation is respected abroad. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for style and clarity.