Thomas Mulcair makes first Richmond appearance

Thomas Mulcair, in conversation with Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Alan Davis at the institution’s Lansdowne Road campus Tuesday.  - Matthew Hoekstra
Thomas Mulcair, in conversation with Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Alan Davis at the institution’s Lansdowne Road campus Tuesday.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair made his first appearance in Richmond at a public event Tuesday,  visiting Kwantlen Polytechnic University in what was a rare local visit for any official Opposition leader.

Mulcair spoke with Kwantlen administrators and students at the Lansdowne Road campus, and joined university president Alan Davis in a public conversation forming the first installment of the President’s Dialogue Series.

Just 12 of the NDP’s 100 seats are in B.C. Both Richmond seats are held by the Conservatives. The NDP did make significant gains here in the last election, but still finished second in Delta-Richmond East with 23.3 per cent of the vote, and third in Richmond with 18.3 per cent.

Following Tuesday’s event, Mulcair smiled at the prospect of making inroads.

“I used to be told that Quebec isn’t NDP country, but people listen, and they’re looking for a positive message about what we can accomplish together. Sustainability issues are a good example of that,” he said, pointing to his party’s success in Quebec where 57 of 75 seats are NDP.

“The same way we worked hard across Quebec in the buildup to the Orange Wave, it’s going to have to be quite a big wave, but we’re going to make sure that it includes B.C.”

Justin Trudeau has made a handful of public appearances in Richmond since being named leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it as far as the Vancouver International Airport last September for an announcement.

Yesterday, in front of a green backdrop and surrounded by potted plants, Mulcair’s talk focused on issues of the environment and sustainability, but he also spoke on issues specific to students—debt and a lack of interest in voting among them.

The Opposition leader said two-thirds of young people didn’t vote in 2011. When young people stay home, he added, the right wing wins.

“We’re trying to make young people understand the current government is leaving a large ecological, economic and social debt in their backpacks that they’re going to carry their whole lives—but they can do something about it. The NDP is addressing these sustainability and affordability issues across Canada, and that’s what brings me to a lot of colleges and universities.”

In taking written questions from the audience, Mulcair was asked why students should vote NDP and not Liberal. To ensure the Conservatives lose, he said. Broken promises contributing to the “largest social, economic and environmental debt in Canadian history” prove rival parties “make promises and then they do whatever they want to do.”

Said Mulcair: “Warning, this is the most boring election slogan you’ve ever heard: we’re going to provide good, competent public administration, but it’s going to be in the public interest.”

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