NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
They are and were, in Mulcair's view, lousy public administrators that irresponsibly racked up record budgetary deficits.
"It's nothing personal - but the Bob Rae government wasn't a model of good administration," Mulcair said.
Mulcair wants voters in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada to forget the record of Rae's Ontario NDP government. Instead, Mulcair wants voters to consider the record of current and previous NDP governments in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia as the fiscally prudent model Canadians can expect if they should one day make Mulcair the first New Democrat to ever become the country's prime minister.
"People want to make sure before they throw us the keys to this very complex government here in Ottawa ... that we're going to be able to deliver on that. So we have to beam forth our confidence and our ability to provide good competent public administration," Mulcair said in a year-end interview with QMI Agency this month.
As for Harper, he says the Conservative's reputation is not matched by their record, such as the way they mishandled the F-35 affair.
"Since the beginning, this is a fundamental failure of public administration. They have good branding when it comes to management but if you look case-by-case at how they operate, they're not very good at it," Mulcair said.
He points to the federal treasury.
"Year over year we've been leaving the largest deficit in Canadian history to the next generation since the Conservatives got there," Mulcair said. "$150 billion in new debt has been added since they got there. Right now we're running a trade deficit of $50 billion a year and we've got 300,000 more unemployed today than we did before the 2008 recession. That's not a very good track record for the Conservatives."
Conservatives might dismiss Mulcair's diagnosis but a lot of Canadians are taking Mulcair and the NDP seriously.
The NDP is a close second to the Conservatives in the latest Abacus Data poll.
Still, it's a long way to the next general election in the fall of 2015.
"The next election is going to be about a clear choice and a clear choice between a progressive party identified as such with a clear track record who have also shown we know how to manage."
Mulcair would repair 24 Sussex
If he does become the country's first NDP prime minister in 2015, Mulcair is willing to forgo one of the top perks of the job - living at 24 Sussex Dr.
In 2008, then-auditor general Sheila Fraser said the official home of Canada's prime minister was in urgent need of repairs that would cost millions of dollars and would require the PM and his family to live elsewhere for more than 15 months while the place is fixed up.
The current occupant, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said in 2008 that he is not moving his family out of 24 Sussex.
Mulcair, in a year-end interview earlier this month, said he's prepared to let those repairs proceed should he ever have the chance.
"I think it has to be taken care of as the patrimonial home that belongs to all Canadians," said Mulcair.
He said he is happy to do whatever is recommended to make sure 24 Sussex and Stornoway, the home of the leader of the Opposition, are in good shape.
"These are things that belong to all of us ... and I don't think it should become a dispute as that work has to get done," Mulcair said.
"Next year is the 100th anniversary of Stornoway and I've been inciting the National Capital Commission to publish in advance what they think is the work that has to be done over the coming years. That way there's no controversy about it."