It was a campaign-style event from the moment Mulcair took the podium at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Sudbury. He grew up in a family of 10, he said, and had to earn everything he got.
“No one ever gave me anything,” Mulcair said. “Unlike Justin,” a reference to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Mulcair took aim at Trudeau and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom he said was the leader of “the worst right-wing government in Canadian history.”
He appealed to young voters to get involved in the process, saying 65 per cent of them stayed home in 2011, handing the Conservatives power.
“That's not sustainable,” he said. It “hands power to right wing governments -- and democracy loses.”
Mulcair set himself as a clear alternative to Harper, promising, for example, a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, drawing a standing ovation from the 100 or so party faithful gathered to hear him speak.
He also promised a $15 federal minimum wage and a national child care program. While the Liberals have made similar promises on child care, Mulcair compared it to the Charlie Brown comic strip, where Lucy annually promises she won't pull the football back at the last minute – only to do it, every time.
“The 'L' in Lucy and the 'L' in Liberal always to my mind,” he said. “All we get are empty platitudes from the Liberals … And we always end up flat on our backs.”
Switching focus back to Harper, he said the Tories were balancing their books largely by cutting $36 billion from health-care transfers, which Mulcair said will lead to a two-tier health system where richer people will get better care.
“We will not let that happen.”
He also criticized Canada's involvement in Iraq, saying only the NDP is “the party of peace.” However, he urged them to look for opportunities to expand their traditional base of support to boost their chances of forming government.
“We shouldn't be afraid of that,” he said. “Most Canadians are progressive."
“For the first time in history, we can form and NDP government ... This is our moment to build Canada together.”
He then praised Gravelle for his mining knowledge, which he said makes an impression in the House of Commons. And he singled out Thibeault for his work in consumer advocacy – for fighting such things as ATM fees on consumers and credit card charges for small business – as well as Thibeault's recent election as NDP national caucus chair.
For his part, Gravelle said he was proud of his record of having introduced the second-most private members bills of any MP. He also said was looking forward to serving in a Mulcair government.
“Because what Tom says, Tom means.”
Thibeault thanked his family for their sacrifices in allowing him to run again, and said he was ready for the next “fight.
“We need to make Canada a country we can all be proud of again,” by getting rid of the Harper government, he said.
“I look forward to sitting on the other side of the House in 2015.”
The next federal election is slated for October 2015.