What was NDP leader Thomas Mulcair doing in France?

Andy Radia

Over the past couple of weeks Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau have been doing what party leaders have always done during the summer break: They're 'doing' the barbeque circuit.

The past couple of days, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has been in France meeting with French politicians and talking about trade.

Political analysts assert that the trip is about Mulcair wanting to improve his "international stature outside of Canada" and specifically to look more prime ministerial to Quebecers.

Sure — that's probably a good reason to go.

But, as eloquently explained by the National Post's Michael Den Tandt, there are better reasons to stay in Canada this summer.

"How better to impress ordinary Canadians than to be seen nibbling dainties and chatting about Proust among the cream of Paris society, while every other politician in Canada is sweating it out on the BBQ circuit, in Kamloops, Kenora or Grande Prairie? Hmm," he wrote.

"Here’s a novel idea: Rather than focusing, yet again, on honing his pitch to francophone Quebec (where people are already quite familiar with Mulcair, one suspects) the opposition leader could train his considerable energies on, say, Ontario, home to 121 seats in the next federal election. That’s a lot of seats."

If you believe the pollsters, outside Quebec Mulcair's party could be in trouble in the next election. Only 15 per cent of Canadians believe Mulcair would make the best PM out of the three major party leaders.

[ Related: Liberal MP slams Thomas Mulcair with a rhyme ]

Vancouver-based political analyst and radio talk show host Alex Tsakumis agrees that Muclair's trip to France was about Quebec but wonders if it was the wisest decision.

"Mulcair recognizes that in order to remain leader of the NDP--and in any way relevant, he must maintain the level of support in Quebec that Jack Layton enjoyed," told Yahoo! News.

"Unfortunately for the NDP, with a surging Trudeau in Quebec, Mulcair might look to alternative therapies for what will surely be a severe case of 'electile' dysfunction.

[ Related: When tragedy strikes, should opposition leaders bite their tongues? ]

And then there's the optics of Mulcair in France and the issue of his French citizenship.

As might have been expected, Mulcair's trip to France has buoyed chatter about whether its appropriate for a party leader to have dual citizenship.

George Smith, a spokesperson for Mulcair, reminded Yahoo! Canada News that Mulcair has said that he will forgo his French citizenship if and when he becomes prime minister.

But until he does, it's an issue that will continually be a sore point for Canadians outside Quebec -- especially as he publicly builds ties to France.

For the rest of the summer, maybe it's a good idea for Mulcair to grab an apron and flip some burgers in small town Canada.

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