More news on coalition blues .. a PM Layton could win (with Quebec spin)?

May 31st, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief
Jack Layton in what would seem to be some kind of mystery appearance, somehow connected with Lini Evans, a multi-lingual  international vocalist, actor and voiceover artist based in Vancouver.

Jack Layton in what would seem to be some kind of mystery appearance, somehow connected with Lini Evans, a multi-lingual international vocalist, actor and voiceover artist based in Vancouver.

[UPDATED APRIL 22, MAY 3, 2011]. In today’s Globe and Mail Brian Mulroney’s former chief of staff Norman Spector reports on an intriguing new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll, originally published in slightly more depth in today’s La Presse in Montreal.

Among other things “the poll … asked Canadians how they would vote if the Liberals and NDP went to the polls offering Canadians a coalition government … ”

In the original source: “Si une coalition PLC-NPD était offerte aux électeurs … les conservateurs réussiraient à défaire une coalition dirigée par Michael Ignatieff (40% au PCC contre 34% au PLC-NPD). Dirigée par Bob Rae, la coalition arriverait à égalité avec le PCC (38% de chaque côté) … Seule une coalition pilotée par Jack Layton remporterait les élections (43% contre 37% pour le PCC).”

Yes Virginia, in the official language of the British monarchy in Canada, that means: “the Conservatives led by Stephen Harper would defeat a coalition led by Michael Ignatieff 40-34 per cent … With Bob Rae as Liberal leader, the coalition and Conservatives would be tied … However, if the coalition were to propose Jack Layton as prime minister, according to the Reid poll, it could defeat the Conservatives by 43-37 per cent.”

A 12-year-old Jack Layton smiles for his school photo in Hudson, Quebec.

A 12-year-old Jack Layton smiles for his school photo in Hudson, Quebec.

Apparently the crucial reason for this intriguing survey result is that Mr. Layton, at least or especially as a potential Prime Minister of Canada, is unusually popular in Quebec. Or  (in the language of Norman Spector at the Globe and Mail rather than Paul Journet at La Presse): “Jack Layton is well-liked by Quebecers but they don’t vote for the NDP because they see no chance of the party forming government; with the prospect of Mr. Layton in the prime minister’s office, 44 per cent of Quebecers would vote NDP — 10 per cent more than the Bloc.”

We are as dumfounded by this poll result as anyone else. And all we can offer for the moment are two facts of ancient and modern Canadian political history that may help explain what is going on (albeit in some very small degree, no doubt).

Jack’s grandfather, Gilbert Layton (far right), as minister without portfolio in first Quebec cabinet of Maurice Duplessis (far left).

Jack’s grandfather, Gilbert Layton (far right), as minister without portfolio in first Quebec cabinet of Maurice Duplessis (far left).

First, although Jack Layton has been based in Toronto, Ontario since the 1970s, he was born and raised in Quebec.  And it is always wrong to underestimate the attractions of a Quebec native son (or daughter) in Quebec — even if he (or she)  happens to be an anglophone Quebecer (or Quebecois), like, eg, Brian Mulroney. In Mr. Layton’s case there is an additional attraction. His grandfather, Gilbert Layton, actually served as a minister without portfolio in Maurice Duplessis’s first “soft nationalist” Quebec provincial government in the 1930s. And it seems a fair guess than in a province which still has “Je me souviens” on its automobile licence plates, such things are still remembered, as they may not be so much in the rest of Canada.

A second conceivably mildly relevant point is that the current Research Director, Public Affairs, at Angus Reid Public Opinion is a young man called Hamish Marshall. Prior to joining Angus Reid in the spring of 2009, Mr. Marshall “served as the Manager of Strategic Planning in the Office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, where he oversaw quantitative and qualitative public opinion research projects.”

Hamish Marshall (l), formerly Manager of Strategic Planning in the Office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and now  Research Director, Public Affairs with Angus Reid Public Opinion.

Hamish Marshall (l), formerly Manager of Strategic Planning in the Office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and now Research Director, Public Affairs with Angus Reid Public Opinion.

We are reliably informed that one of our counterweights contributors will be having somewhat more to say about Hamish Marshall in another posting later this week. For the moment we would just stress very strongly how we do not in any sense believe that Mr. Marshall’s former partisan attachments to PM Harper’s Conservative flagship are in any way comprising the technical integrity of his current polling work at Angus Reid Public Opinion.

At the same time, it is, no doubt as well, worth noting that this latest Anguis Reid survey finding, about how a PM Layton would do best in leading any future Liberal-NDP federal coalition in Canada, will almost certainly complicate and/or make more difficult rather than facilitate any real-world coalition discussions of this sort that may or may not happen, or even be happening right now? And in the end that can’t have escaped the notice of someone as clever as Hamish Marshall? Or, as the continuing Conservative partisan Norman Spector has concluded his Globe and Mail blog today, with almost audible glee: “it will be interesting to see how the Liberals deal with the results of the survey.”

UPDATE APRIL 22, 2011: Almost 11 months later, this piece has acquired some slight additional interest in the context of the last week or so of the 2011 Canadian federal election campaign. See “Canadian election 2011 .. now it seems things are starting to get interesting .. maybe (would you believe PM Jack?).”

UPDATE MAY 3, 2011: Well it’s all over today!  For what finally did happen to Jack and his Quebec-spinning New Democrats see the counterweights editors on “A historic unnecessary election .. probably .. and now there’s only one party responsible for the next four years” …

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  1. Wow this is from a year ago….. cool

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