Today’s Parent interviews NDP leader Thomas Mulcair

Thomas Mulcair shares the perks of being a grandparent.

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Illustrations: Aidan Kim, age 6

 

THOMAS MULCAIR, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

AGE: 60

FAMILY STATUS: He has been married to Catherine P. Mulcair for 39 years. He’s dad to Matthew, 37, and Gregory, 33, and a grandfather to Juliette, 6, and Raphael, 2.

GO-TO BEDTIME STORY WHEN THE BOYS WERE LITTLE: “We had a whole series of Disney books, and those were absolutely their favourites.”

WHAT HE’D DO FOR PARENTS AS PRIME MINISTER: “Well, the NDP have a clear plan to get $15 daycare, and that’s resonating very well across the country. That’s what Catherine and I had to do. In Quebec City, Matt was in a family daycare situation from the beginning and that wasn’t really satisfactory. There wasn’t really much going on—it was just babysitting. And then we got him into this great co-op daycare and it was fabulous. We realized that boost in getting early education. We know as parents what it was like to find those spaces for our kids. And I hear stories from parents all across the country about not being able to find quality affordable childcare. That’s why it’s such a top priority for the NDP in this campaign.”

HIS PARENTING PHILOSOPHY: “We were extremely present in our kids’ lives. I don’t mean nattering, but in the sense that we did activities together. So, for instance, I was the coach of Greg’s hockey team for a number of years. Catherine and I would take them to swim meets and school events. We didn’t send them off to activities so much as we accompanied them to activities. Even though Catherine comes from a European background and a culture that doesn’t have a heck of a lot of hockey, she became the quintessential Canadian hockey mom and I would say that was the starting point of being very present in our kids’ lives and working constantly to make sure that we were there with them.”

Thomas Mulcair and his two grandkids, Raphael and Juliette. Photo: NDP
Thomas Mulcair and his two grandkids, Raphael and Juliette. Photo: NDP

PITCHING IN ON THE HOMEFRONT: “I come from a family of 10 kids and I’m the second oldest, so I grew up with a lot of responsibility. When I was eight, I could change diapers, and I’m not talking about things with tape on them. These were diapers with pins and you had to learn how to not stab yourself or your kid sister or brother. And my parents relied on us—they knew we could help. Because of the fact that we came from such a large family, my dad gave me the model of how to be. My dad was always in the kitchen. And he was a really good cook and he always had us clean up. That was the model that my brothers and I have tended to follow. I would dare say—Catherine could confirm this—we both had an even role in raising our kids, and we shared all tasks equally.”

SHOWING THE WAY: “Both Catherine and I were very active in the community. Catherine volunteered at the school. I was on the board for the Oral School for the Deaf and on the board of the St. Patrick’s Society and other charities in Montreal before I started in politics. I’d say that volunteering is a Canadian value shared by Catherine and myself, and both our kids have continued along in their own vein. Matthew, our older son, is a police sergeant and has been volunteering for years for the board of directors for a sports co-op in the Laurentians, where he lives. And Greg, who is a physics professor, volunteers at Ste. Anne’s Hospital. This is just a reflection of good values—I think we modelled it.”

HIS APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE: “My parents made a deal with us and they stuck to it religiously. They said, ‘If you’ve done something and something has gone wrong and you come and tell us, then you’re never going to get into trouble. We won’t fix it; we’ll figure it out. But you’ll never get in trouble if I hear it from you. If I hear it from somebody else, then that will be a problem.’ That was a system of trust that my parents worked on with us. And like I say, they had a lot of kids to work with. Catherine and I did the same thing with our kids. There was an openness, and they knew they could always talk to us.”

Thomas Mulcair with Catherine, Greg, Matt and their families. Photo: NDP
Thomas Mulcair with Catherine, Greg, Matt and their families. Photo: NDP

THE PERKS OF BEING A GRANDFATHER: “It is more relaxing being a grandparent because you don’t have that responsibility. We sometimes tease our kids if their kids are fussing: ‘Matt, haven’t I told you? The way to do this is to give them everything they want.’ ‘Oh yeah, that’s how you raised us,’ he’ll say. You can just love them and hug them and spoil them but also be present with them. We make it a priority, despite the fact that we are in the middle of a campaign. In fact, last weekend, it meant going to a chips stand, having hot dogs and playing minigolf with them for a couple of hours. But that was the time we could have to swing up north to where they live to be with them and then swing back down. It’s a priority, like everything else in life. You make your priorities and, for Catherine and myself, the priority was to be very present in our kids’ lives.”

THE BEST MEMORIES: “Being in the stands, watching Greg play football. I coached him when he was younger, but Matt, Catherine and I loved to watch the games together. As well, we have incredible memories of the times we were together in Europe. We always made family time a priority. Catherine’s family took a little bit more work because half her family was overseas, but I would say that those were the best times spent together.”

THE SECRET TO A LONG AND HAPPY MARRIAGE: “I’ve been blessed to have an incredible partner. Catherine is just extraordinary. And part of [a successful marriage], I would dare say, comes from Catherine because she’s so good at it that I’ve learned from her. It’s not just the couple; it’s the relationship that has to have a separate existence—it needs to be taken care of and cherished. It’s something that we make sure to take care of, making sure we make time for each other and that the actual relationship is healthy and gets lots of sunshine.”

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