Can Jack Layton stop the fall election train in Canada .. maybe not?

Sep 12th, 2009 | By | Category: In Brief
“New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton listens to a question during a news conference at the Delta Barrington hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 3, 2009.” Reuters/Globe and Mail.

“New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton listens to a question during a news conference at the Delta Barrington hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 3, 2009.” Reuters/Globe and Mail.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12. 11:00 PM ET. [UPDATED SEPTEMBER 13, 18;  and AUGUST 24, 2011]. Jack Layton has been proud that his New Democrats have so far not “propped up” the Stephen Harper Conservative minority government. He’s been contemptuous of the Liberals for carrying this can when no one else would.

But on some readings he has played an important role in securing Mr. Harper’s elevation to the status of minority prime minister, in both Canadian federal election campaigns of 2006 and 2008. (And it was Mr. Layton who helped Mr. Harper defeat Mr. Martin’s Liberal minority government in the late fall of 2005, to set the stage for the 2006 election.)

So it`s not entirely surprising that just as it was starting to seem impossible to avoid a fall 2009 Canadian federal election, Jack Layton has told CTV Newsnet: “I’m not ready to say that an election is somehow inevitable. We should be trying to make Parliament work … What we’re hoping is that Mr. Harper might decide to actually work with someone, for a change, and achieve some real results for people.”

Jack Layton and his wife (and fellow MP) Olivia Chow, at a student rally to lower tuition fees, in Toronto, Ontario, November 5, 2008 — just a few weeks after Canada’s last fall federal election.

Jack Layton and his wife (and fellow MP) Olivia Chow, at a student rally to lower tuition fees, in Toronto, Ontario, November 5, 2008 — just a few weeks after Canada’s last fall federal election.

To at least go through the motions of not leaving any such stone unturned, the Harper Conservatives are now “expected to try to court support from the NDP this week with reforms to the country’s employment insurance program.” Whether this will be enough to bring Jack Layton on board the propped-up ship of state remains to be seen.

Hasn’t Mr. Harper, e.g., started to think that a fall 2009 election might finally bring him a majority government at last? What was the point of his close colleague Jason Kenney’s recent talk about how the New Democrats are “left-wing ideologues” who “drink their own Kool-Aid”? How long is the NDP rank and file going to put up with supporting a historically right-wing ideologue minority prime minister, famous in the past for such declarations as “Canada [is] a second-tier socialistic country”?

Of course, who really knows? Maybe Jack Layton can somehow stop the election train. And with as many as three-quarters of Canadian voters telling pollsters they really don’t want another election this fall, maybe it would do both the New Democrats and Canada some good? Whatever happens, it’s at least going to be yet another interesting week in Canadian political history, when Parliament starts up again on Monday, September 14.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 13, 18: According to Keith Bonnell of Canwest News, at 7:45 this morning (Calgary or Mountain time, it seems?): “While he left room for co-operation that could stave off an election, Layton said he has his doubts … ‘I haven’t had an indication from Stephen Harper that he wants to work with other parties. You always hope that the best interest of the Canadian people will prevail. . . . Call me an optimist without grounds,’ he said, laughing.”  So … who knows what that means? For an update on Canadian federal politics as of Friday, September 18, 2009, see L. Frank Bunting’s In Brief report: “All fired up and ready to go in Canada?

UPDATE AUGUST 24, 2011: For the counterweights editors’ commemorative thoughts on the sad death of Jack Layton, in the immediate wake of the greatest achievement of his political career, see “Rest in peace Jack Layton .. ‘Optimism is better than despair.’”


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