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Mulcair rides into Calgary

Federal opposition leader Thomas Mulcair tours the Stampede grounds during the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 12, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS/Todd Korol

RICK BELL | QMI AGENCY

CALGARY -- He comes in with quite the wind at his back.

He's not flinching.

NDP boss Thomas Mulcair is doing well in the national polls and then a bigshot stateside says Enbridge's lousy handling of a pipeline spill in Michigan reminds her of the Keystone Kops.

Enbridge, as in those behind the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat B.C., shipping from the oilsands to Asia.

As in a pipeline idea Mulcair hates.

It's no wonder the man oozes confidence in his standard-issue cowboy duds and look-you-straight-in-the-eye answers.

Besides, he has nothing to lose in Calgary. He won't come near winning a seat.

The Stampede is his backdrop. He's talking to the rest of Canada.

For those of you who know your Bible, he is casting himself as the lefty Daniel in the oilpatch lion's den of Harperland.

While we're talking about the prime minister, Mulcair tells the Harper Tories in no uncertain terms to play nice or face a taste of their own medicine.

It is the most passionate he gets in a long huddle with media in Calgary Thursday.

Mulcair claims he wants to flog a "positive high-road message" but if people take off the gloves he'll drop his.

"If the Conservatives continue with personal attacks as they've done with others in the past we'll deal with it in our own way," says the federal NDP No. 1, with eyes wide open.

"It's never my first choice but recently we've pushed back on some of the attacks against us.

"We'll let them know they're not going to be alone on the skating rink. There will be another team facing them.

"Things have changed in Ottawa. There's now a very strong structured official Opposition facing a strong structured Conservative government.

"The game has changed."

As Justin Trudeau tells this scribbler this past weekend, Mulcair and Harper are two sides of the same coin, two nasties at different ends of the spectrum.

The next three years should be fun.

As for the Northern Gateway pipeline, Mulcair remains "firmly opposed."

Unthinkable proposition. Toasted western.

"We simply don't think running supertankers at Kitimat makes any sense," says Mulcair.

"The recent blame against Enbridge by the highest level of the American government would give anyone pause.

"It's not our opinion. It's the opinion of the highest level of the U.S. government that they're simply not capable of doing the job properly in the U.S. and I don't think we should be taking that risk with our ecosystems."

Mulcair mentions the infamous Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill off the coast of Alaska and how some environmental damage just doesn't go away.

As for local politicians. Mulcair doesn't meet Premier Redford. No request was made. Earlier in the week, Redford didn't see much point in talking.

No doubt her lack of chat with Mulcair must hurt the feelings of all the self-styled progressives who voted for Redford and wait for some evidence she and they are singing from the same song sheet.

Speaking of songsheets, and we're not thinking of Garth Brooks and Friends in Low Places.

The only guy in these parts Mulcair applauds is Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who he says we're lucky to have in the city's top job.

Mulcair and Nenshi meet and chit-chat about the importance of the oilpatch and the need for development to be done in a way sensitive to Mother Earth.

Mulcair says the mayor is "one of the most exciting politicians in Canada," understanding issues "as a progressive in many respects" and "one of the most interesting and capable politicians I've met in my life."

Wow. This is a love-in to make a hippie red-faced.

There are those raining on the parade. This is a democracy.

Riding shotgun on the Harper wagon is Calgary's Jason Kenney, who says Mulcair's idea of an economy is "a bunch of master's degrees serving up lattes in the Plateau in Montreal."

The Plateau is a trendy area in Quebec's largest city and part of it is in Mulcair's riding.

Kenney slams Mulcair as "a downtown Montreal socialist" and an "economic flat earther playing on the worst kind of regional division."

Back at city hall, a legendary radio reporter notices Mulcair is wearing a white hat, the good guy's chapeau.

"I hear Mr. Harper was the one wearing the black hat. I'm wearing the white hat. I came fully equipped," says the NDP leader with a grin, ear to ear.

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