With Canada PM job now in reach, 'Angry Tom' reins in temper

Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:11am EDT
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The left-wing leader in striking distance of toppling Canada's Conservative prime minister was once known as "Angry Tom," but Thomas Mulcair has been turning on the charm to convince voters he is ready to run the country.

The 60-year-old Mulcair, who inherited Canada's opposition New Democratic Party after his charismatic predecessor died in 2011, holds a slim lead in a tight, three-way race ahead of the Oct. 19 general election, according to the latest polls.

Described as "smart, tough and nasty" by Canadian magazine Maclean's in 2012, the man who decided on a career in politics when he was 14 has spent the last three years taming what he once called "a good Irish temper."

"The biggest challenge with Tom was always Tom himself, because he had a tendency of going over the top," said a former colleague in the province of Quebec, where Mulcair started his political career.

"But since he's been in federal politics, I've been impressed by two things: how much he's disciplined himself and how much he's disciplined his caucus."

In 2005, Mulcair was ordered to pay another Quebec politician C$95,000 ($77,017) for defamation after he accused the politician of influence peddling.

Five years later, during a televised exchange, Mulcair snapped "You're a crap journalist" to a reporter for Maclean's, which had called Quebec Canada's most corrupt province.

In 2011, after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mulcair said he did not think the United States had pictures of the corpse. He later blamed election "fatigue" for his remark.   Continued...

New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair reacts to applause during a rally in Ottawa, Canada, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie