Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

NDP leader Tom Mulcair speaks with the media following caucus Wednesday, May 14, 2014 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Thomas Mulcair's defence was already doing him more harm than good by the time he suggested a reporter could use a dictionary.

It wasn't that the NDP Leader was losing an argument, it's that he was argumentative. In an itchy, angry way. His press scrum on Tuesday, responding to allegations his party misused parliamentary funds, turned into 30 minutes of condescending vinegar. Mr. Prickly Makes His Case.

Mr. Mulcair gets deserved credit for the effectiveness of his prosecutorial style in the Commons, but his defence-attorney performance slid straight into defensiveness. It's especially self-defeating because the NDP blames the other parties for labelling him Angry Tom, when, they say, he's not like that at all. Except there he was being snarky on TV.

Story continues below advertisement

He cut off reporters and asked others to pose questions instead. He claimed he was being treated unfairly by reporters unwilling to report evidence that proves his party right. To his credit, he stood for a half-hour and responded to questions about a controversy. But it was his testy demeanour that shone through.

The issue under his skin was a controversy over how the NDP hired staffers. It pooled MPs' parliamentary budgets to create a satellite office in Montreal, where those parliamentary staffers worked alongside party workers, in an office rented with party money.

The other parties are accusing the New Democrats of doing partisan work with parliamentary budgets. The NDP says MPs just pooled some money to do some common work, and there was no rule against doing it out of an office rented by the party.

The MPs by-laws say they can hire employees for an Ottawa office or a riding office – there's no third option. But a new rule was made recently to explicitly bar parliamentary staff from working in a party office – and Mr. Mulcair says the fact that the rules were changed prove it was allowed before.

The political parties can debate the rules – as they will when Mr. Mulcair appears before a Commons committee today. It's unlikely this complicated issue will blow into a huge scandal. But there's no doubt that the NDP has a perception problem. MPs have long had parliamentary office and constituency offices, but the NDP created something new, a regional satellite office. Housing it with a party office invited people to wonder if it's doing party work.

Some of Mr. Mulcair's defence Tuesday was the garden-variety fudging when faced with inconvenient facts. One reporter asked whether an NDP official told the House of Commons, on a form back in 2011, that the employees in the Montreal satellite office were working in Ottawa. Mr. Mulcair said the question was really about where their home base was, for management purposes. (The question, in fact, was whether the employees would work in Ottawa or a riding office.)

But there was also a whole lot of edge. When the same reporter tried to ask a question later, he cut her off and asked if anyone else had a question.

Story continues below advertisement

CTV's Laurie Graham started to ask a question by referring to his assertion that the rules had been changed, and Mr. Mulcair, referring to her as "Miss Graham," chose to patronize. "Miss Graham, when it says on a document that the rules have been amended – this just in, there is a dictionary, and the word amended means changed."

When Ms. Graham asked about another subject – whether Elections Canada is looking into free-mail sent by the NDP – he insisted that her stories on the topic had failed to include a "report" from Elections Canada exonerating the party.

"You didn't report that Elections Canada said we had respected all the rules," he said testily.

The problem with his accusation, however, is that Elections Canada never said that at all. The letter from Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand he was referring to, according to party officials (posted here simply outlined what the rules are, without saying whether the NDP respected them or not.

Perhaps the whole controversy over the NDP's satellite office has Mr. Mulcair feeling a little hard done by. It's hard enough to figure out the line between political staffers doing MPs work and those doing party work. But the NDP knew, at the very least, it was pushing the envelope with this and risking some blowback.

And that's what makes the NDP's prickly reaction bizarre. It doesn't really smack of a blame-the-media tactic to discredit the story. Mr. Mulcair really seems to feel bitterness, and somehow believes there's an unfair persecution going on. For a zealous prosecutor, he's surprisingly thin-skinned in defence.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies