Last on my list of interviews was Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the New Democrats. It took a while to get hold of him, because when I called his campaign office a recording said the line had been disconnected. Eventually I tracked down his campaign manager, who turned out to be crashing on a buddy’s couch for just a week or two until he got some things straightened out.
I was supposed to meet Mulcair in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart on the south side. I stood there wondering why he would choose this place, until I was distracted by the sound of an engine sputtering. An ancient Winnebago came down the road, painted bright orange, with Air Mulcair emblazoned on the side. The motor stalled every time the camper turned left, but it managed to coast almost all the way to me.
Thomas Mulcair got out, his face plastered with a smile that looked like a cross between a game-show host and rigor mortis. He sauntered over and shook my hand energetically, rather like the Cat in the Hat might.
“Mr. Mulcair,” I said. “It seems that your proposed budget, which makes only small changes to the tax structure and social spending, has failed to impress leftists. Was this a strategic calculation to win over centrist voters in Ontario, or are you taking a principled stance against sacrificing fiscal responsibility for redistribution?”
With his teeth bared and his cheeks scrunched up in a massive grin, his reply went like this, “pollscannotbetrustedanywaybreakthroughin905upcomingtookmoralhighroadasalwayscanadasnextgovernment.”
“Are you okay?” I asked. “It kind of looks like you smiled so much your face got stuck that way.”
“photoopneedbaby,” said Mulcair. “zhuli!getmebaby!” He waved his fist at the Winnebago. “BAAAABY!”
A staffer ran out of the camper, carrying a nonplussed-looking baby. She handed it to Mulcair, who cooed at it and kissed it as well as he could without breaking his rictus grin.
“Sorry,” the staffer whispered. “If it’s time for a photo op and he doesn’t have a baby to kiss, he sometimes loses his temper.” She surreptitiously wiped some spittle from Mulcair’s beard. “It’s been a long campaign.”
“Tell me about it,” I said.