A spectre is haunting Thomas Mulcair, and on Tuesday it yelled "Boo!"
That spectre is and always has been voters' wariness that the New Democratic Party, which Mr. Mulcair has jockeyed into contention in this election race, might not be the safe, just-barely-left-of-centre, budget-balancing party he makes it out to be, but is instead the radical, nationalize-the-banks camp of its not-so-distant past.
Just when Mr. Mulcair had that spectre locked in a closet, out it pops in the form of the Leap Manifesto, a revolutionary (but not in the good sense of the word) critique of capitalism from author Naomi Klein, signed by prominent NDP supporters, native-rights activists, movie stars and pop musicians, and endorsed by public-service unions with strong NDP links.
The manifesto calls for immediate social revolution in response to the threat of climate change. Its "demands" include "innovative ownership structures" as an alternative to "the profit-gouging of private companies," and a "new iron law of energy development" that, if taken seriously, would pretty much put an end to every project ever – pipelines, windmills and solar-panel farms included. This iron law states, "If you wouldn't want it in your backyard, then it doesn't belong in anyone's backyard."
"We could live in a country powered entirely by truly just renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality," the Manifesto says. "Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy's fastest-growing sectors."
It also wants Canada to move to a "localized and ecologically-based agricultural system." And rip up trade deals.
Beyond the dubious wisdom of combining signature words from the vocabularies of Marx and Mao in the title lies the fact that the Leap Manifesto's supporters are undermining the efforts of the party that forms their natural constituency. Or maybe undermining the NDP for not being left-wing enough is the point.
We don't think Mr. Mulcair endorses the manifesto's madness. He is far more moderate than that. He is also a politician, and he wants to govern a country that is by its nature suspicious of radical social upheaval, especially when promulgated by rock stars.
Saddling him now, barely a month from the election, with the task of answering questions about a revolutionary utopian manifesto seems like an obvious case of failing to look before you… Well, you know the rest.