Well it didn't take long for the NDP to give us a bunch of fun stories

May 6, 2011

I must confess to being over the moon at the election results, and not because of the Conservative majority but that the New Democrats now form the Official Opposition.

Good for them, jolly good show, congratulations and all that. I'm sure it's a result of the honest community development the party has done these last years, and not the fluke that it may appear, at least in Quebec, where voters elected anyone wearing orange or saying they might. There are many shiny faces among the party's new crop of MPs, and I say give them a chance.

Yes! Give them a chance, even the elusive and reclusive Vegas, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the new member for Berthier-Maskinongé-Casino! May they learn at the feet of Thomas Mulcair, who this week reminded all the reporters in the land, if no one else, why a strong NDP is such fun.

Mr. Mulcair is of course the party's deputy leader, a lawyer, a former veteran MLA who for three of those 13 years was a government minister. He first ran federally for the party in 2007. He's a well-seasoned politician, in other words, and Jack Layton's Quebec lieutenant.

Mr. Mulcair appeared on Evan Solomon's Power and Politics show on CBC on Wednesday, where Mr. Solomon opened the discussion by saying that now that the NDP wasn't just a fourth party but the Opposition, there will be more scrutiny and questions.

For instance, he said, someone might well ask Mr. Mulcair if the United States should release pictures of Osama bin Laden's corpse.

Mr. Solomon wasn't trying to set a trap; he was simply asking for Mr. Mulcair's answer to a question very much in the news.

Looking relaxed and rested, though he later claimed to have been suffering candidate brain or postelection trauma syndrome, Mr. Mulcair replied, "I don't think, from what I've heard, that those pictures exist. And if they do, I'll leave that up to the American military."

Mr. Solomon was gobsmacked. "You don't think they exist?" he asked.

"No," Mr. Mulcair said, "I don't think that... If they have got pictures of a cadaver, then there is probably more going on than we suspect.

"On the other hand, if they do have them and they don't release them, I think that they are probably doing it in the most decent way." (This is the bit upon which Mr. Mulcair later relied to show that he was being fair to the Americans.)

The two then chatted a bit more - about whether bin Laden was reaching for a weapon - but Mr. Solomon specifically asked again about the cadaver pictures. "When you say you don't think the pictures exist, explain exactly why you think there might not be pictures of a cadaver and the body of Osama bin Laden."

And Mr. Mulcair replied, "It's very difficult to explain a negative proposition. You are affirming that they do exist. If they do exist, if the Americans say that such things do exist, then it will be up to them to release them."

"They have a photo," Mr. Solomon said, making this the third time he asked about the corpse picture.

"Possibly," Mr. Mulcair replied.

A day later, appearing on a CBC radio show in Montreal, Mr. Mulcair cited campaign fatigue, and purported to "take full responsibility for the meandering" part of the conversation where he made what he acknowledged "was not [the]clearest, the best statement I could have made." But then, in the modern fashion, Mr. Mulcair said that if one looked at the whole context of the conversation, his answer becomes more clear.

It does too.

When you watch the entire thing, it's as plain as the nose on your face that Mr. Mulcair doubts the existence of the photos, and thus, inferentially, that he believes that anyone who takes the Americans, including the president, at face value is a stooge.

Now, Mr. Mulcair is not alone. Within a half-hour of Barack Obama announcing bin Laden's death, inboxes the world over were filling up with frantic notes from conspiracy theorists who the week before were denouncing Mr. Obama's just-released long-form birth certificate as a fraud. And it's not that presidents or prime ministers haven't been caught lying before. One is not required to take government at its word.

It's just that usually, such folks live in their mummies' basements. Not often are they the deputy leader of a country's second party.

And so it was that I came to be fondly reminded of the good old days, when the now Liberal Bob Rae was the NDP premier of Ontario, and a reporter could rise at noon, wipe the sleep from her eyes and without doing a lick of work find herself handed a story of magnificent ineptitude.

There was Peter North, the then tourism minister, who quit cabinet amid allegations that he'd offered a bartender a government job while they were having an unconsummated affair, making him perhaps the only minister to resign over a sex scandal that had no sex. There was Marion Boyd, then the attorney-general, defending the hiring by the Special Investigations Unit of a Florida cop who claimed to have investigated 75 homicides, but who it turned out hadn't had a piece of a single one.

I am verklempt. I am overcome. I must move immediately to Ottawa.

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