Straight Talk
WARREN KINSELLA - Mr. Angry has become Mr. Invisible

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks to the media outside the New Democratic Party (NDP) caucus strategy session on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, January 17, 2013.

Credits: REUTERS/PATRICK DOYLE

WARREN KINSELLA | QMI AGENCY

Tom Who?

Thomas Joseph Mulcair, that is, the fellow alleged to be the leader of both the New Democratic Party of Canada and Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

You may have heard of him, or perhaps even seen him on TV once or twice. Bearded, greying hair, doesn't smile much. Bit of a temper.

Just about a year ago, New Democrats gathered in Toronto to select Mulcair as their leader. It was in all the papers at the time.

"Can Mulcair really become a team leader?" one headline queried, and the answer appeared to be "no." Beneath it, columnist L. Ian MacDonald wrote that the former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister "has never been known as a team player" and had been "always a polarizing figure."

The folks at Maclean's purloined a phrase by Yours Truly, and dubbed Mulcair "Mr. Angry" in a pre-convention headline because, well, he is.

"Renowned for his short fuse," Maclean's wrote, adding "critics worry about his temperament."

"Harper has little to fear from Mulcair," Barbara Yaffe wrote in the Vancouver Sun, and she was certainly right about that, but for a reason no one anticipated last March. Mr. Angry, you see, has become Mr. Invisible.

He is a political missing person. If we didn't know better, in fact, we'd reckon that Mulcair had entered a witness protection program.

Folks in Ottawa will tell you, at this point, they see Mulcair just about every day in question period (as if question period matters, which it doesn't).

They'll say he has been an active and visible leader of the opposition, but that is only true if you consider what happens in Ottawa to be relevant to the everyday lives of everyday folks (which it isn't).

Out here in the hinterland - that is to say, in the real world - nobody knows or cares much about Angry Tom Mulcair. Sure, he popped up a few months ago to alienate millions of westerners with his musings about "Dutch disease."

He fulminated about ethics and fighter jets and the economy. He has permitted a bill to ooze out of his NDP caucus that would repeal the Clarity Act and return us to the unity wars of the past.

And, after that ... not much.

As Yaffe foretold, but for different reasons, Harper has indeed had little to fear from Mulcair. The ruling Conservatives seem listless and drifting, but they have remained at the top of public opinion polls for much of Mulcair's tenure as leader of the NDP. The prime ministerial cat, Stanley, lately seems more relevant than the leader of the opposition.

The Liberals, meanwhile, are leaderless, and located in a distant perch in the House of Commons.

But the Grits generate more ink and more interest than Mulcair's gaggle of former bartenders and golf course employees.

Justin Trudeau, the likely winner of the Liberal leadership contest, is a human ATM, raking in cash and looking like a winner.

Mulcair doesn't look like a winner. His problem is that he is not Jack Layton. The much-loved, deceased NDP icon was everything Mulcair is not: Smiling, positive, likeable and energetic.

Why NDP delegates would pick Layton's doppelganger to be their leader is an ongoing mystery. But they did.

Tom Who? More like, Tom Who Cares.

Canadians, mostly, don't.

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