After launching a nationwide campaign last Monday in Ottawa, NDP leader Tom Mulcair swung through Courtenay on Thursday to discuss senate scandals and other topics with a capacity crowd at the Zocalo Café.
The tour is dubbed Roll up the Red Carpet, in reference to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempt to “sweep a bunch of things under the carpet,” Mulcair said in an interview.
“But we’re going to roll it up, put it away and show everybody what’s underneath.”
Demands to reform or abolish the Senate have heightened in light of scandal allegations that various senators — namely Conservatives Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, and Liberal Mac Harb — have misused public money with improper housing and travel-expense claims.
The Harper government has referred questions about Senate reform to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“The Supreme Court’s going to tell us what the rules are for getting rid of it,” Mulcair said. “So that’s the how. This summer we’re concentrating on the why — why it’s important to get rid of the Senate.
“We’re going to get a roadmap from the courts, so we’re not going to get lost in the weeds on the details at this stage of the game. We’re going to stay on the principle of why in a democracy you don’t let unelected people make laws for the rest of us.”
Canadian senators make a base salary of $135,200.
“They cost a million bucks a year each,” Mulcair said. “Until Harb finally resigned in disgrace this week there were 100. Now there’s 99. So we keep saying one down, 99 to go.”
Mulcair also spoke about the need to address a “growing inequality in society,” noting hundreds of thousands of seniors who live in poverty and 800,000 children who go to school hungry in the morning.
“How can we allow that?” he said to the crowd. “We have a priority. It’s you.
“Our priorities are taking care of Canadian people. We want to get back to the jobs that are being lost because we are putting all of our economic eggs in the extraction basket.”
Mulcair also touched on First Nations issues, which he said have been pushed to the back burner; Harper’s call for increased mandatory penalties for marijuana use, which the NDP opposed and Liberals supported; and his predecessor, the late Jack Layton.
“He (Layton) was the single best salesman I’ve ever met.”