The Jack Layton Media Blitz
Jack Layton has landed himself a prize marlin, I mean Martin! I'm rather surprised that he managed to get Martin to agree to $4.6 billion worth of new social spending but good on him for doing so!
Unlike PM the PM, Layton seems to have a solid team of advisors working on this issue, regardless of what I heard Robin Sears say on CBC Newsworld's Politics (of course, the fact that I'm good friends with one of them doesn't bias me one bit on this point). This is a win-win-win situation for him. He's managed to get more media coverage on this than he has since he was selected as head of the NDP, and I'm including last year's election campaign in that assessment. In an election campaign, the NDP can paint itself as relevant, and a key player in a minority government scenario, that can get its objectives adopted by the government in power. I don't think that there is any negative blow-back to be had from propping up the Liberal government. For one thing, this amounts to a maximum of a 10-month extension on the government's life, given Martin's promise of an election call. And they can claim it was for some very good reasons, not only to make Parliament work, but to get some pet legislation passed, such as same-sex marriage. This will appeal solidly to their base, and to the waffling left-wing Liberals. Plus, polls show that Canadians aren't eager for an election call.
Does this deal hurt Harper, or force him to change his strategy? Hard to say. I don't think he can do worse in a new election than he did last time around, whereas the Liberals are pretty much bound to lose a few seats to the Bloc in my home province. The question is whether a snap election will strengthen his representation in Parliament. Ideally, he should be trying to hold all his existing seats, and then make inroads in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Let's leave aside the optics of a joint Conservative-Bloc election call, for the time being (although I will say that this would not go over well in Ontario, which in the past has run to the Liberals like a scared sheep when there are any optics of Quebec separatism on the rise). A stronger, viable NDP opposition hurts the Conservatives in two significant ways. First, in Atlantic Canada, when the region turned away from the Liberals in 1997, the NDP benefitted in a big way. That was with Alexa as leader, but the precedent is there. Who knows how the chips will fall this time - it's not a lock for Stephen "let's cut subsidies to the Maritimes" Harper.
The other electoral concern for Harper should be some of his Western base. There were a number of seats in Saskatchewan and British Columbia that were very close three-way races in 2004. Most of those went Conservative (to my chagrin in my electoral pool). But a good third of the Saskatchewan seats could be NDP pick-ups, as well as a number of BC seats in the Vancouver Island-Lower Mainland area, particularly if the provincial party gains steam in the current provincial election. If I was Stephen Harper, I would be worried about this. Losses here could offset his gains in Ontario.
The NDP has also been a-flutter with email activity of late. I've received almost daily updates on what Layton is doing, so he is clearly trying to keep party members in the loop (and in the party). I also got a reply within 24 hours to an email I sent him urging him to keep Parliament alive until Bill C-38 passed. That's good politics. It won't win him the election, but all of this should be enough to allow him to really play king-maker the last time around. For want of one seat last election, he would already be there.
On a personal note, unless an election is actually called before Friday, or there is earth-shattering news, this will likely be my last post until May 15th. I'm off for some much needed R&R, but will be back in action in mid-May. And please, feel free to post some comments. I like to know that people actually read this blog. Recommend this Post