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Who Wants to Get Rid of Stephen Harper More: Tom Mulcair or His Supporters?

The NDP has been slipping in the polls and Mulcair's supporters are waning. Can the charm of his beard hold onto what he has left?

He's hip. He's cool. He's Tom Mulcair! Photo by Anthony Tuccitto

"Everyone has the freedom to choose, it's their prerogative, but I wouldn't vote like that," Yugeshwar Singh told me when I asked him how he felt about the idea of getting Stephen Harper out of office via a strategically placed vote for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. "If kids are getting engaged in voting, I get it and that's great, but I think it's a bad way to voice your right to vote."

Singh, 26, a York University student, said that he came out to the VICE Meets Mulcair town hall event not to mince politics or support a particular party, but rather to know more about missing and murdered Indigenous women and how Thomas Mulcair's NDP was going to handle the crisis where at least 1,017 women have been murdered or gone missing since 1980.


Watch Tom Mulcair's town hall with VICE

"I share the same sentiments because it's a cause for concern," Singh's friend Vinay Ram added. "To be a part of a society that doesn't give recognition to the atrocities that have been committed and are being committed today on people that have been here for a very long time is shameful."

For Singh and Ram, the idea of voting for a party with opposing values based purely on polling data—especially when there are outcomes to issues they feel passionately about hanging in the balance—is out of the question.

This was not the case for everybody in line to the event, however.

"I actually strategically voted and I feel sort of guilty about it," Kabir Bhatia, a Munk School student, told me while chuckling. Just moments earlier, he had explained to me how strongly he supported the NDP's positions on a variety of topics.

"When it comes to getting Harper out, anything's worth it."

Yugeshwar Singh and Vinay Ram. Photo by Jake Kivanc

Over the past few weeks, support for the federal NDP has declined sharply from the lead it had going into the campaign, with the latest Nanos polls putting the party at around 24 percent today. The Liberal Party, on the other hand, has surged ahead, polling at 35 percent, putting them neck and neck with the in-power Conservatives.

The phrase "anyone but Harper," which has become a common topic for Canadian progressives, has opened the door to the idea of strategically voting Harper out of office by tossing votes to the now-leading Liberal Party.


It's a concept Mulcair himself touched on during the opening moments of the event when asked about the idea of a coalition with the Liberals—a plan that Trudeau has shot down on multiple occasions.

"My priority is to get rid of Stephen Harper," Mulcair told the audience, noting that he has been and continues to be open to the idea of resigning his party to split a coalition government in order to defeat the Conservatives.

Mulcair, who answered questions on a variety of topics from audience members and VICE News reporters, held strong throughout the event and received applause for a number of his answers to issues involving the environment, clean water on reserves, and radicalization.

One of the questions, which seemed to reign in less applause for Mulcair than his previous answers, came from VICE News parliamentary correspondent Justin Ling, who pressed the NDP leader about whether he, as prime minister, would back out of the Canadian government's current $15-billion [$11 million UDS] arms deal with Saudi Arabia due to the country's notorious human rights violations.

Mulcair, who initially described the deal as "abysmal," noted that he would not back out of the deal as a matter of business ethics. He added that he would ensure no future deals would happen with the country, however.

After the event, I caught up with Singh and Ram. I was curious what they thought of Mulcair's responses on Indigenous issues and foreign policy—the two things they said they cared about the most.


"You know, I thought he was on point. It was an immediate approach," Ram told me about Mulcair's proposition to form a task force in order to tackle the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. When it came to foreign policy, though, Singh highlighted what he thought has been a marker of the NDP's approach to sensitive issues for a while.

"I think the stance they have on Aboriginal [peoples] is great, but as far as the Palestinian-Israeli deal goes, I think I'm still iffy about that," Singh told me, noting Mulcair's vague support of a peace deal between the two countries. "It seems like everybody tries to play both sides—on this issue and others—and I think it's important to take a decisive stance on the issue. Something more practical should been said. I'm a little disappointed."

Photo by Anthony Tuccitto

Out of the dozen people I spoke to at the event, only one of them said they weren't sure who they were voting for or who they supported. Almost everybody else, whether they had voted Liberal or the NDP, said they agreed with Mulcair's platform unequivocally.

It's telling then that, even in a room where Mulcair's policies received the same enthusiastic applause as a (pretty lame, IMO) beard joke, the majority of the people I talked to said strategic voting was ultimately more important than anything Mulcair had said or could have said to sway their vote. In a way, the NDP's single-minded approach to eliminating Harper at any cost may have very well been its death rattle this election.

Follow Jake Kivanc on Twitter.