If Stephen Harper thought the arrival of Parliament’s Christmas break meant he was putting the Senate scandal behind him, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says the Prime Minister is mistaken.
Mr. Mulcair told reporters in an end-of-sitting news conference on Wednesday that he is proud of the work he has done to grill Mr. Harper over the payment made by former chief of staff Nigel Wright to then-Conservative Senator Mike Duffy and the NDP Leader intends to resume that line of attack in the new year.
“In Question Period, it’s worth noting, we asked the government a total of 786 questions about the Senate scandal. We didn’t get quite that many answers and we are going to have to continue on that after the holidays,” said Mr. Mulcair. “We will continue to hold the government to account for their scandals and their mismanagement.”
The NDP Leader dismissed suggestions that his focus on the Senate was detracting from the attention the New Democrats have traditionally given to other files. There have been many questions asked about issues like the environment, he said.
“But when we talk about the possibility of criminal acts in the Prime Minister’s Office, you are going to have trouble convincing me that we didn’t do the right thing by continuing to ask questions on that,” Mr. Mulcair said. “I guess Richard Nixon would have considered the Watergate investigations a distraction from his projects to do other things.”
Mr. Mulcair was widely praised for his performance in the House of Commons over the past several months, asking pointed questions in a prosecutorial style about the money paid by Mr. Wright to cover off more than $90,000 of Mr. Duffy’s questionable expenses. But that has not translated into support at the polls.
According to Éric Grenier, who writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com and also for The Globe and Mail, an aggregate of public opinion surveys suggests the NDP declined significantly in 2013, both federally and provincially.
Polls suggested last January that Mr. Mulcair’s party was the choice of 29 per cent of Canadians. Those numbers have slipped to between 23 and 25 per cent while the Liberals, under new leader Justin Trudeau, have surged well into the lead.
In addition, the NDP lost what had appeared to be a cakewalk for the provincial party in the British Columbia election. The NDP was defeated in Nova Scotia. And Lorraine Michael, the NDP Leader in Newfoundland, has faced a revolt from within her own caucus.
Mr. Mulcair conceded that things have not gone well for the NDP in all provinces. But he pointed that, federally, the party’s popularity is still well above where it was when it was fourth place in the House of Commons.
“Two years out from the next election, the NDP is in better shape than it’s ever been in its history,” he said. “What used to be our ceiling is now our floor. We are doing well. We have poured a very solid foundation. The concrete is hardening and we are going to start building on that.”