Transcript: The Fall

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TOM MULCAIR: Sometimes it came to mind the line of Icarus, getting a little bit too close to the sun. I mean, I do come from a very modest background and worked very hard to get to where I did in politics, and it didn’t work out, but sometimes I do think of that, that maybe we got too close to the sun, and some of that wax melted and we fell back.

MUSIC BED: Sam Roberts “We’re All in This Together”

NOAH RICHLER: Oh Gawd, there’s a nightmare memory for the NDP, Canada’s New Democratic Party—good folk not wanting to remember the slam of the October 2015 Canadian federal election they were expected, for a time, to win. That Sam Roberts tune was the soundtrack of then party leader Tom Mulcair’s rallies, and, frankly, I remember it too well: I was a candidate, if without the “strength of conviction” former party leader Tom Mulcair has in such abundance that he used the phrase for the title of the memoir be published just weeks before the fateful campaign.

Hello and welcome to Pivot, the show that begins in those watershed moments when new circumstances force us to reimagine ourselves. Maybe you’ve lost your job, or—as was the case with me when I was a political candidate—you didn’t get the one you were trying for, damn it. Or maybe, like Tom Mulcair, you were on the verge of the job of your dreams—of greatness—and then fate got in the way.

Tom Mulcair is retiring, this summer of 2018, after twenty-four years in politics.

The Irish and French Canadian Montreal-born lawyer started his political life as a civil servant before, in 1994, he was elected to the Quebec National Assembly as a member of Daniel Johnson’s defeated Liberal Party. Under Jean Charest, who became Liberal premier in 2003, Mulcair served as Quebec’s minister of sustainable development, environment, and parks, and then, in 2007, he set his sights on Ottawa, winning the riding of Outremont in the federal election that year and becoming only the second NDP member ever elected from la belle province.

He was appointed by the late NDP leader Jack Layton as his Quebec lieutenant and, in that role, is credited with having engineered the “Orange Crush” or “Orange Wave” that, in May 2011, saw fifty-nine MPs elected from Quebec and the NDP, winning 103 seats in total, becoming the official opposition for the first and only time in Canadian history. Then, in April 2012, after winning the protracted leadership campaign that followed Jack Layton’s untimely death just a few months after the election, Tom Mulcair became the NDP leader.

And let me come clean—though it’s no secret, I wrote a book about campaigning and losing—I was a supporter of Tom Mulcair’s then and remain an admirer now. Mulcair was terrific in opposition, holding the prime minister, Stephen Harper, and the Conservative Party of Canada to account unrelentingly. And I’ll not forget that during the 2015 election—when there was nothing to be gained from his doing so—Mulcair demonstrated himself to be a man of great integrity during the Quebec debate in his pyrrhic defence of Zunera Ishaq’s right to wear the niqab at her citizenship ceremony. But, as I have written before, “it is in the pattern of history that great leaders, by virtue of doing their work so well, often bring a community to a point in its evolution in which the very qualities that have brought them to the mountain are rendered redundant by their success.” End quote.

The NDP were defeated in 2015, no news to Canadians. A majority of the franchise was fed up and didn’t want Stephen Harper or anybody remotely like him in the prime minister’s office. But it had been Mulcair’s pugnacious nature that made Canadian resistance to Harper and the Conservatives possible—and for Canadians to elect someone else when the moment came. Canadians voted for “change,” that hackneyed political slogan that is reapplied every four years in slightly altered guise. And Canadians got it—or, at least, a change in the conduct and demeanour of government—and, six months down the road, Tom was unceremoniously shelved at the convention his shell-shocked party held in Edmonton. And, in October 2017, he was replaced by the current NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh.

I mentioned that I’d written a book about my campaign experience: I was a latecomer to the party, joining a week or so before the election was called and contesting one of the safest Liberal seats in the country, its sitting MP—the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs—was incumbent, by then, for eighteen years and counting. Toronto-St Paul’s was—until May of this year when the Ontario provincial NDP candidate Jill Andrew broke the spell—a “no-hope” riding for Dippers and certainly not one the party thought I’d win. I was running to make a point—and yet, in politics, there is always hope, and when I—when we—lost, I was absurdly and irrationally upset. One of the most fulfilling decisions I’d ever made, the decision to run, was followed by more than a year of feeling utterly useless and finding rejection everywhere. It’s a common condition, I’m told, but if that’s what an insignificant player in a riding impossibly out of reach comes to feel then what, I have so often wondered, was the man tipped to lead the country feeling, Tom Mulcair’s defeat at the polls followed by the party’s dumping him as leader.

You’ll understand that I was thrilled when my friend and sometime mentor Tom Mulcair agreed to sit down and have a chat about life then and now and the pivot that was forced upon him. That said, confrontational politics such as are ingrained in the nasty Gothic revivalist architecture of the Canadian houses of Parliament, the craven symbol of our fealty to Westminster, are not the only course this country could take, so I did also turn to my Ukrainian Métis friend and colleague, Patti Laboucane-Benson, who was the co-author with Kelly Mellings of the prize-winning graphic novel of Aboriginal justice and healing The Outside Circle for context and some idea of indigenous views of leadership our settler politics forego.

I’m Patti LaBoucane-Benson—director of research, training, and communication at Native Counselling Services of Alberta.

This adversarial notion of there’s only winning and losing is dehumanizing—it’s a real dehumanizing process, and I think that we have certain leaders at different times in certain situations, different people will rise and their skills are needed. But, when the situation changes, they’re not a place for them to be that is still a leadership-esque but not necessarily in the trenches.

What makes a leader powerful is the ability to walk their talk, and so leadership is constantly being measured against values, and so, for example, in our agency, we explicitly say that we follow Cree teachings of wahkohtowin in our service delivery. And those teachings are all about the nature of our relationships—with values like kindness, caring, sharing, respect, honesty, freedom. And so we say this explicitly, and we expect our leaders to walk their talk. That doesn’t mean everybody’s perfect, but we expect our leaders to, in the best way possible, carry themselves according to those teachings, and if we make a mistake, to own up to it.

NOAH RICHLER: Tom, thanks for coming in, and I want to say thank you, of course, because I worked for you. You’ve been my boss in a sense. I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job.

TOM MULCAIR: I didn’t pay you enough. That must’ve been part of it [laughter from both].

NOAH RICHLER: Can you describe the moment where you realized that loss was imminent?

TOM MULCAIR: Well, we knew, from what I guess we could call in shorthand, the niqab affair, had played very seriously into our polling numbers in the province of Quebec. So, to give people the short version of that, there was a court decision about halfway through the campaign that said that a woman who was a practicing Muslim, it was part of the respect for her religious freedom that she’d be allowed to wear a niqab at the swearing-in ceremony to become a Canadian citizen.

NOAH RICHLER: The woman’s name was Zunera Ishaq.

TOM MULCAIR: Yes. I agreed with the ruling, spent a lot of time explaining in Quebec that the easy part is to be in favour of freedom of speech or freedom of religion when you agree with what’s being said or it’s your religion. The tougher part is when it’s not necessarily something that’s common for you or that you’re familiar with and you still have to defend people’s rights. And we went from, we were close to 58 percent in the polls in Quebec, and we dropped almost literally overnight in about a 48–72 hour period, we tumbled about 20 percent. And there was a rallying effect, there had been a decision taken by Canadians to get rid of the very dowering and gruesome Conservative government and replace them. Looked like we might have a shot at that at some point, but as those numbers started to come in, we knew that we were in a very difficult spot.

NOAH RICHLER: Yes, I will say that struck me as a heroic moment. Because I’m sure you knew …


NOAH RICHLER: That there was going to be a tremendous cost.

TOM MULCAIR: We knew, because there had been a first decision in her case, there’d been a lot of discussion in the Quebec media. I had done the rounds of the studios at the time, explaining the importance of our Charter rights for all of us, but I also knew because we’d been taking a pummelling then for not coming out against it, that it was going to be tough. And we also had a prime minister who was so strongly anti-Muslim in a lot of his approaches, and that of members of his caucus, that we knew he’d use this to the full extent. At least it didn’t work Noah, I think that’s one of the most fantastic things about this—neither in Quebec nor in the rest of Canada that this bullying and targeting scapegoating members of another religion didn’t work, and that’s reassuring.

NOAH RICHLER: I imagine being the leader of a party, as you were with the NDP, the New Democratic Party, there is a strong caretaker element, you’re responsible for many people. Does that mean there was a difference in how you felt the loss professionally and personally? Did that personal moment come later?

TOM MULCAIR: Yes, there was definitely the objective responsibility for the machine. So it becomes personal quickly because you’re letting really good people go. We had a staff of 700, ’cause we were the official opposition, we dropped back to third party, that meant literally hundreds of people were losing their jobs overnight, so you feel it personally but you still got a very strong administrative role to play and you’re working your way through that. So sure, you feel very strong responsibility.

NOAH RICHLER: Do you remember what you did on October 20th? The morning after the election?

TOM MULCAIR: [Laughs] Oh yes, I do! This is gonna surprise you. We had invited a bunch of friends to Stornoway because we knew we would have to start packing our boxes from that official residence for leader of the opposition. So our kids, our grandchildren, and a bunch of friends came to Stornoway, and we had supper together. And we avoided the spotlight. That was for the new people coming in, but it was also a way, frankly, you know that I come from a family of ten children. My priorities, my values are really strong and clear, and Catherine, my wife…we know who we are. We know what’s important, and I think back on that supper with those friends who stayed over and our family, it was just a way of saying, “We got this.”

NOAH RICHLER: I will say that I was absurdly devastated by losing a riding that was going to be next to impossible for me to win, one of the safer seats in the country for the Liberals, and I did think of you often—I thought that it was almost irrational that I should have felt the loss so deeply when, in truth, you lost so much more. One of the many differences between your position and my own—it is required of you immediately after the national defeat to stand up before the person who’s won, across the aisle across the floor at the House of Commons. Was that ever difficult?

TOM MULCAIR: No. Because I had respect for the victor, and you have to have respect for your adversary, in victory or in defeat. So I had respect for the fact that the Liberals had formed a government.

NOAH RICHLER: Do you think of the election loss in October 2015—was it a defeat?

TOM MULCAIR: No question! I’ve had the good fortune in my political career–I was elected three times to the Quebec National Assembly, and I became a minister there, and then I was elected four times to the NDP in province of Quebec. A bit of background: prior to my getting elected in the general election, our party had never won a single seat in a general election in the province of Quebec. Today, despite the loss in 2015, I’m proud to say we’ve got sixteen outstanding, strong, incredibly capable politicians for the NDP in the province of Quebec. And the work we did with our cherished former leader Jack Layton to break through in Quebec is, frankly, what I’m proudest of in my political career, ’cause that still stands.

NOAH RICHLER: Are there any qualities of your own that you came to doubt or wondered may have contributed to the 2015 loss?

TOM MULCAIR: Absolutely, and those are a little bit longer. That takes a little bit more time for that to sink in.

NOAH RICHLER: I’m asking about personal qualities…

TOM MULCAIR: Yeah, but the person who’s there says, “I can get through this because I can debate” or, “I can get through this because I’m a fighter and I won’t back down.” If maybe another character who’ve said we better work on our social media, better work on communications, that is a reflection of the person who’s making that decision. The choices you make on that are a reflection of you. So I’ve gone through those in moments that I’ve had since the elections. I say, “How could that have been done differently?” So ultimately, Noah, I don’t think there’s another way of saying it. I know, I’ve known since the night of the election, that that’s on my shoulders. So whatever failings there are in the organization are a reflection of the decisions that I made or failed to make. I’ve never had any trouble acknowledging that.

PATTI LABOUCANE-BENSON: When a leader comes up through the ranks, they will show two different things—the first is that they are willing to be in service to their community and to their constituents, whoever that is. And they are also willing to be mentored by somebody who is a leader. All of the powerful leaders that I know have had very good mentorship and they were willing to take critical feedback at important times in their development.

It is really about mentorship, and I don’t want to make it sound like there isn’t a competitive part of that because it’s not to say that Indigenous people are not competitive and Western society is more competitive—that would be a false dichotomy. But the idea of leadership forming has been around and through relationships—that this idea of an apprenticeship model is not just about learning, it’s about forming meaningful relationships to learn through.

Mentors have been one of the most important aspects of my career, and I have had so many mentors. I guess what I would say about that is that some of the most powerful people who have influenced my life didn’t like me, actually didn’t like me at all, and I found it very difficult and quite disconcerting at times to listen to their feedback, but when I think back on that feedback, or back on that criticism, I think that they were absolutely right, and I needed to hear it. So I think that mentors are not always a warm blanket, often it feels like sandpaper, rubbing against our skin. But sometimes that’s what we need.

NOAH RICHLER: This podcast is called Pivot, but am I perhaps misguided in thinking that a moment of Canadian decision, such as October 2015, was actually a watershed moment for you? Did it actually alter anything in you?

TOM MULCAIR: Of course! It was a pivotal moment, but I’ve had several in my career. Again, if you look at it in retrospect, what is important is that when you think back on it, did I make the right move at the right time? I’d been Quebec’s environment minister at one point, I came under a lot of pressure from cabinet and from people around that government in Quebec City to transfer lands in a provincial park that were there in perpetuity for future generations to transfer them, to private developers to build condos, and I simply refused to sign the order in council, the decree that would’ve done that. They offered to change departments, send me somewhere else so somebody more compliant would sign those documents, which of course they did. It was the first decision taken at cabinet. But instead of accepting a different ministerial portfolio, I quit cabinet, I threw the keys to the limo back on the table, I said, “Thanks, I’m just gonna sit as a back bencher,” which nobody had ever done, but that was a pivotal moment…and I had had a chance by the way, to talk to Catherine, Matt, and Greg before announcing that decision, consulting them, I said, “This is the situation,” and they said, “Walk away from it with your head held high.” It’s the same thing with regard to the election in 2015—you work your whole career, you think you’ve got ideas that you could bring forward, you want to actually see them come into force and change our society in a positive way, and you fall short.

NOAH RICHLER: Of all the professions, politics one that demands the greatest schism in the public and the private persona. When do you actually have private moments, when do you have your walks in the woods? Do you make sure you have them?

TOM MULCAIR: You bet. Catherine has been extraordinary from the beginning of this adventure. Making sure that our priorities are clear, and with regard to things like walks in the woods or long swims that I love to do, those are the things that I will reserve time for, because you can’t do the rest of it. The whole time I was leader of the opposition, I would take at least forty-five minutes every morning, alone, for a long walk. You have to be able to clear your mind. With regard to the priority side of it, if politics or any other job becomes your life, you stand a risk of losing a lot. If you’re firmly grounded in your own family and that idea of leaving things better for future generations, that’s something that I firmly believe in.

NOAH RICHLER: You’re one of ten children. Where were you in that ten?

TOM MULCAIR: I’m second oldest.

NOAH RICHLER: I’m also a number two—I’m a number two of five. I think, as number two, you end up being somewhat of a stage manager, and even minding number one, who’s come first and learns certain neuroses. Is there anything you did as a child that you recognize in how you behave later in life?

TOM MULCAIR: One of the things that I learned as a child was to be very independent, and if you’re in a group that size, you better learn how to take care of your own stuff. Strong willed, never backing down from a fight. And that’s something I’ve carried through all the jobs that I’ve been through. Sometimes there’d been controversial moments, and I’ve never backed down on a question of principle or from a fight, and that’s something I’ve learned from a very young age. It is a character trait.

NOAH RICHLER: You’re a remarkably sure person, you call your memoir Strength of Conviction—what was a moment when you felt most chastised, in a sense, maybe by someone else or life experiences?

TOM MULCAIR: I guess it was when I left cabinet, because you’re full of doubt, despite the fact that your closest people, for me my wife and two sons, supported me in that decision, you’re walking away going, I really always wanted to go into politics and now I’m walking away. It’s good, in retrospect, to be able to say, “I walked away from something that was wrong on a question of principle.” But at the moment you’re not sure at all.

NOAH RICHLER: It took me a long time to understand when writers spoke of the well of their experience being filled fairly early on and drawing on that well. But so much that influences us happens early on. Are there figures in your own life that were particularly important? You write in Strength of Conviction, your memoir, of, for instance, Father Alan Cox.

TOM MULCAIR: Tremendous character. Father Cox was the pastor at our high school, a big public high school, in Laval, north of Montreal, strong willed, brilliant, widely read, who influenced a whole generation of kids from that school. His main strong-willed approach was to get us to understand there were a lot of things that could be changed in our society and that we could play a role in doing that. So at that young age, with other kids my age, we were fourteen, fifteen, we were going into some of the poorest areas of Montreal just lending a hand, just helping. We weren’t social workers, we were working, just helping people, the aged and people in circumstances that we didn’t know about. We were kids working in the suburbs. One of the things that was so great to work with someone like Father Cox was that he respected young people’s points of view, so we have an evening where we were discussing issues that could be social issues, he’d play a movie about motorcycle gangs and ask us to comment on it. There was no such thing as a bad comment. He challenged sometimes what you had said, but that was the beauty of having someone like that, who was open, wanted to develop our ideas, or at least ability to think critically in our society, and instilling a sense that we could actually do something about it—that, I think, is one of the key things. So he was an incredible influence, we stayed friends right to the end, frankly. He passed away just a few years ago. I got the chance to give the eulogy at his funeral. He remained a strong influence to another person who influenced me a great deal.

NOAH RICHLER: I wrote a fat book, a cultural portrait of Canada, in which I try to understand the country through the stories that not just novelists tell, and finishing it, realized that I’d completely omitted the idea of faith. My family is Jewish, I’ve not been practicing, but it was actually a conversation with a Catholic Newfoundlander that brought that to my attention. How is your good story of Father Alan Cox, how is your experience of faith in a Catholic family, how has that affected your conduct in your life?

TOM MULCAIR: When we were kids, so you have to understand that the first eight kids were born in eight years, and then a couple of stragglers came along a few years later. My mom used to take us to a convent around the corner for six o’clock mass in the morning—sometimes we’d go five mornings a week. We would say the rosary, if it was with my mom, it would be in French, with my dad, it would be in English. My dad’s dad used to say it in Gaelic, so that’s literally what you call being raised on your knees. That was also Quebec in the early ’60s, that changed very rapidly after that. There was a big opening. So that approach where you see the society in which you live through one religion changed in my personal life because my wife Catherine’s family is Jewish, and we just came back from Paris where her mom had passed away. We were cleaning up some of the things in apartment that they’d had in Neuilly for many years, and one of the things that we’d brought back was a faded yellow star marked “Juif” that she’d had to wear when she was a child, my mother-in-law, she and her parents fled?

NOAH RICHLER: Weren’t they from Turkey?

TOM MULCAIR: Yes, the family had originally come from Turkey, but at that point, they were living in Paris, and they had fled to the unoccupied part of France, where my mother-in-law spent the better part of three years with her parents in an attic in a place called Auriac. So these are eye openers, too, to understand how religion in our lives can be illuminating and something that could give you strength and vision and could also, in our society and in our world, lead to some of the horrors that you and I both know about.

NOAH RICHLER: Are there historical leaders or examples you entertain or people whose conduct you’ve always wanted to emulate?

TOM MULCAIR: Well, there’s one historical figure that I think is often overlooked even on the books on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it’s Pope John XXIII. A lot of people saw him as the caretaker pope—he brought in some of the most important reforms in Catholicism. But he also played a key role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was one of the only links that existed between the Kennedy administration and, using his contacts with the Orthodox leaders in Russia, was able to be a conduit in and calm things down. I think we need some Pope John XXIIIs right now in the world, as we look at the state we’re at between Washington and North Korea in particular. This is for me the most worrisome time. I’ve seen since I was a kid I could remember watching my dad and the neighbour watching their black-and-white TV–they were watching a newscast. My dad turns and says, “There could be another war, Tommy.” He says, “Well look, those ships are Americans, and they’re surrounding Cuba right now, and the Cubans have missiles, and there might be a war between the Americans and the Russians.” That was terrifying to watch my dad be afraid was especially terrifying, but it’s the first time since then that I’ve actually had the same feeling of dread.

PATTI LABOUCANE-BENSON: When it’s time to move on, from maybe in-the-trenches leader into a position like elder, and there’s a transition that happens with people when they’re done with the day-to-day and the stress and all of that kind of thing, that there would be a transition into an eldership role.

There is a space that is…a very honourable space for leaders to transition into. And that space has been created and we hold it for elders to teach us. If that space is not created, if there’s isn’t a place to transition to…then it can feel a lot like rejection. And it can feel like being displaced, and all of that wisdom and everything that you’ve learned in the process of your career, there’s no place to put it, there’s no one to share it with. So I think when our agencies and our societies works well, we create that space for the elders, and we go to them often because, at the end of the day, they’ve probably made every mistake that we’re about to make, they can help us talk through and walk through different aspects of crisis or issues that are going on, and by creating that space, we keep that knowledge alive. We don’t have to keep learning from our own mistakes.

It’s about constant development, and I guess the trick is, as a leader, to know when it’s time to move from in-the-trenches leader to elder.

NOAH RICHLER: Do you wake up at three in the morning?

TOM MULCAIR: No! I sleep very well [laughs]. I’ve been at this for a while. I started my career in government exactly forty years ago. I was there for the first René Levesque Parti Québécois government in Quebec City—it was an extraordinary time, great ideas, all other questions of sovereignty aside, it was an exciting time to be a young lawyer in government. It was a great time—and I’ve been through successive waves of different governments, and I really have always felt that the NDP as social democrats, as people with strong social democratic and socialist roots, we really have something to contribute, especially with regard to removing inequality in our society. We’re not leaving something better for future generations if we continue on this track. These are all things that as social democrats intended to act on, not just talk about it, we were going to do it. And that’s a big difference.

NOAH RICHLER: Do you think we identify too much with our work? Or our public perception of work?

TOM MULCAIR: That’s a good question. I was trained as a lawyer, and when I went to law school forty-five years ago, that was a big thing. Lawyer was one of those things that you’d aspire to. Interesting enough, when I was in law school, I never applied to a single job at a law firm. Now, I wound up doing a fairly long stint, maybe twelve years overall, in law firms, but I’d prefer to be known not by the job but by the work that I’ve been able to. And you don’t have to be the member of any profession to become an elected official. That’s one of the beauties of it. Indeed, if you look at the House of Commons or the National Assembly or Queens Park today, you’ll notice if you compare to a couple generations ago when it was a bunch of lawyers mostly anyways. You’ve got people from all sorts of backgrounds today, and I think that’s very healthy for democracy, and it’s also a sign of the democratization of what’s important in our society.

NOAH RICHLER: And what in your political experience, years of it, best prepares you for your next chapter, for your life as a teacher?

TOM MULCAIR: I’m going to use a very old word, vocation. When I was in high school, I wondered if I didn’t have a vocation to be a teacher. And I went to law school, entered McGill Law School quite young, and I had the good fortune, when I was working in the Quebec justice department, to begin teaching at St. Lawrence College in Quebec City. That worked out well because I had that experience and was overjoyed to be teaching. I’m a bit of a ham at heart, I know journalists are never hams at heart, but, Noah, I could tell you, sometimes politicians are. I loved that experience. I went to teach in university for several years as well, so it’s something that I’m thrilled to be going back to, especially in an area that I love like environment and sustainable development. Université de Montreal is a great place, and everything I’ve seen so far has indicated I’m going to have a lot of fun there in addition to be able to share some of my experience with students. I was watching the Olympics, and I saw on of the ice hockey coaches who was a former NHLer with seventeen years of experiences, and I said, “Well, I feel a little bit that way, somebody who did the NHL, at that level of politics but now gets to coach and share practical ideas.” I’m really looking forward to it.

NOAH RICHLER: What would be the three lessons about being that you would pass on to a young boy, girl, if they wanted to change the world? What would you advise?

TOM MULCAIR: One thing that’s taken me a lifetime to understand—what to do is to be a good listener, listen to other people. Compare would another thing that I’d learn: don’t believe that the thing you know is the only thing. Learn how to compare. And use other examples ’cause that’ll help teach you empathy. There’s not only one solution, there’s not only one way of looking at a problem. I think that’s essential. That’s something else. The most important is to love, because if you don’t love the people that you hope to be able to help, then you’re gonna be able to get it right, you’re going to be doing it for your own ego, you’re going to be doing it for self-aggrandizement. And I think that loving people, doing things selflessly, is the most important of three things.

NOAH RICHLER: What’s the difference between quitting and losing?

TOM MULCAIR: I think there’s a big diff. at this stage of the game, having being elected in the seven elections that I ran in and losing, I guess the best way to say it is: you aspired to do something, and you weren’t able to get enough people to rally to your party, and therefore to you, to get you past the finish line. It’s not quite the same, in respect to having been leader of party, at the very moment of the result, of course that was difficult. You know, you’re standing there on alone stage, you’ve prepared a few remarks, and you go through it. You accuse “le coup,” you feel it coming in, you say, “Okay.” You say, “There’s more to this.” You have to take a longer-term view, looking over the horizon, what’s the job involved now? What can I do to make this a better place? That’s the only way to do politics.

NOAH RICHLER: I think you’re right. Thank you, Tom Mulcair.

TOM MULCAIR: Great to see you again, Noah.

NOAH RICHLER: I’m Noah Richler and you’ve been listening to “The Fall,” the second episode of the podcast series Pivot, which is produced by Angela Misri and Judy Ziyi Gu of The Walrus and this episode with the assistance of Jonah Brunet. Thank you Charles Spearin for the music, to Paper Bag Records and Sam Roberts for the permission to include his hit song “We’re All in This Together”—and, for her sharing of Indigenous ideas of leadership, Patti LaBoucane-Benson, director of research, training, and communication at Native Counselling Services of Alberta, and recently the lead facilitator of the first Canadian Nelson Mandela Dialogues, an international exercise in truth, reconciliation, and safe space that was held on the Enoch Cree Nation outside Edmonton just a year ago. And, finally, thanks a lot, Tom Mulcair, for the freighted step I took nearly three years ago—and, more seriously, for your extraordinary contributions to Canadian political life.

The Walrus magazine publishes independent, fact-based journalism, and should you wish, you can find transcripts, links, and subscribe to Pivot at

Thanks for listening.