Mulcair attack on Trudeau brings into sharp focus the philosophical divide between NDP and Liberals

Ted Hsu
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A speech by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair with the following quote made the headlines recently:

“The problem is, Justin Trudeau will never know what middle-class means. He just doesn’t understand the real challenges that families are facing. Never has. Never will.”

(Progressives Battle, Harper Smiles by Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, April 8, 2014)

Here it is not my intention to challenge Mr. Mulcair. What I want to say is that, for me, Mulcair’s attack on Justin Trudeau is not just another partisan criticism. Mr. Mulcair was speaking to the NDP faithful, its federal council.  His statement points to a profound difference between the NDP view of Canadian politics and the Liberal vision I prefer.

Mr. Mulcair is saying that someone from one income level will never understand what it’s like at a different income level. He’s telling Canadians they should divide Canada up into “us” and “them”, by wealth, and that Trudeau is one of “them”. I think the NDP believes in, and they are certainly entitled to their political beliefs, politics as a struggle between the haves and have-nots.

The Liberal vision is that, while Canadians should seek prosperity, one of the purposes of achieving prosperity should be to ensure the equality of opportunity. A prosperous country can pay for a basic level of peace, order and good government. It can afford a basic level of education, healthcare and equality under the law for all. These are the things that truly ensure the equality of opportunity beyond mere words.

Liberals do not seek to divide Canadians.

I reject class warfare. I embrace national unity through a social contract.