Canada’s election is one week away and the story of the election campaign Jack Layton and his New Democratic Party (NDP). (And yes, I used to be a member of the NDP.)
At the beginning of the campaign, the NDP was an afterthought. However, after strong performances in both the English and French language debates, Layton and the NDP have surged in the polls bumping the Liberals out of second place. The NDP has done particularly well in Quebec where it has rarely won seats. This unexpected development has the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois and even the governing Conservatives are now directing their attention towards the NDP.
Should the NDP finish with the second most seats in the House of Commons it would be the first time that has happened in its fifty year history. Becoming the official opposition would be precedent in its own right. But if Stephen Harper and the Tories once again fail to secure a majority of seats there is a chance that Layton could become Canada’s first socialist Prime Minister. Of course, Stephen Harper and the Tories would get first crack at forming another minority government. However, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff today indicated he would be willing to work with Layton even if it means Layton gets the keys to 24 Sussex Drive (the Canadian equivalent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.) Ignatieff’s willingness to work with the NDP hasn’t prevented him from calling the NDP platform “science fiction” and “amateur.” But I guess Ignatieff will accept the NDP’s science fiction and amateur approach if it means he becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Of course, a week in politics is a lifetime. It’s more than enough time for Canadian voters to have second thoughts about handing over the reins to the NDP. Given that Ignatieff has now given Layton his blessing it gives Harper a chance to paint the NDP and the Liberals with the same brush.
Should Jack Layton and the NDP take the lead in Canada’s next Parliament I think they will learn the hard way that governing isn’t easy, that most of their prescriptions are impractical and they will soon be overwhelmed by the task before them. In short, Jack Layton would be the Canadian version of Barack Obama.
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