Canada's New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 16, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Blair Gable
Remember the 1980 federal election? It pushed out the short-lived Joe Clark government and ushered in yet another Liberal majority under Pierre Trudeau - a majority that gave us the National Energy Program, among other treats.
The Grit campaign that year was run by Keith Davey, Trudeau's crafty, longtime strategist. And his battle cry was "Screw the West, we'll take the rest!"
Alberta's coffers were brimming from the first modern oil boom, and Davey and the Libs calculated that if they stoked resentment of the West during the campaign and promised a made-in-Canada price for oil below the rising world price, they would find enough votes in Central and Eastern Canada to sweep them back to power. There wasn't a single Liberal elected west of Winnipeg, but with their anti-Western demagoguery the Liberals managed to win 147 of 282 seats in the House of Commons.
If you want to know what current NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is doing by attacking the West - again - it's simple: He's repeating the Davey gambit of 1980.
Last week, Mulcair accused the West and its resource riches of driving up the Canadian dollar and "killing" manufacturing, forestry and fisheries jobs in the rest of the country.
This week he compounded that by accusing the premiers of the three western-most provinces of being "messengers" for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
He even accused Alberta's Alison Redford of being a Harper lackey and all she'd done was apologize for not explaining better Alberta's efforts to reduce emissions.
It's easy to see the NDP strategy: The West has lots of money. They got it by forcing our dollar up and making you lose your job. Vote NDP and we'll stick it to Harper and those other rednecks.
This time there's also the added element of global-warming hysteria. Mulcair is also saying: Not only has the West ruined your livelihood, they're destroying the climate, too.
It will be the NDP message from now until the next election in 2015 that the West must be stopped in order to preserve Canada's social-justice traditions and to preserve the world's environment.
Mulcair and his campaign brainstrust will do their utmost to paint the West as greedy, uncaring and dirty, because if they can do so successfully it will then be easier to tag their main opponent, westerner Stephen Harper, as greedy, uncaring and in favour of pollution, too.
It doesn't matter that Mulcair is quite simply wrong about the impact of a high dollar.
For instance, a study released this week by Montreal's Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) says that while our higher dollar has had some impact on the manufacturing sector, "the adverse effects ... have been less widespread than feared."
Researchers Mohammad Shakeri, Richard Gray and Jeremy Leonard examined all the factors that affect job growth, including exchange rates, international competition, technological innovation and changing demand for 80 manufacturing industries.
"Only 25 of the 80 industries show a significant negative relationship between the U.S.-Canada exchange rate and output."
On the other hand, 24 benefited from the rising dollar, while the rest (31) were not significantly affected one way or the other.
Importantly, the trio insist the rise of the Canadian dollar over the past decade is mostly a monetary optical illusion. Only 42% of the "rise" was actually the result of our dollar getting stronger, 58% was caused by the U.S. dollar getting weaker - a phenomenon that had nothing to do with Western Canada's new prosperity.
But I'd bet Thomas Mulcair won't permit himself to be dissuaded by the facts. He's found what he believes to be a winning election strategy and he'll stick with it.