Electile dysfunction 2008
Layton can’t grasp reality of ‘un-election’
October 6, 2008

Would somebody high up in the New Democratic Party please take Jack Layton aside and slap some sense into him! (And while they’re at it, convince him to get rid of that insipid moustache.) If Harper does manage to hold onto power come election day, it may well be because of Layton’s overweening political ambition.

I can appreciate that Layton, like any party leader, wants to promote his own candidates and try to win as many seats as possible—that is, after all, the purpose of an election—but he doesn’t seem to realize that he is not fighting an election. He is fighting an un-election, the object of which is to preserve what’s left of Canada’s democracy.

There are only three plausible outcomes to this un-election: a Harperite majority, Harperite minority, or a Liberal minority supported by the NDP. The first outcome would represent a threat to our sovereignty and Constitutional liberties, and must be prevented at all costs. The second option would also be bad, but it could be rectified if the opposition found its spine fast enough.

The third option would be the least objectionable, since the NDP’s pro-law, anti-fascist MPs would keep pro-Israel fifth-columns like Irwin Cotler and Bob Rae from running amok. It would also be the best result that Layton could hope for because the NDP is not now, nor has ever been, in a position to form a government.

Layton and company continue to rely on cloying, facile appeals to “average Canadians” and flog hackneyed labour-socialist stereotypes—“Main Street/Bay Street”; “boardroom tables/kitchen tables”—and therefore will never appeal to a broad enough cross-section of disaffected Liberal and Conservative voters, who doubtless perceive the NDP as little more than a mouthpiece for Big Labour and the poor.

Since the NDP will not win, and since the current government is a national menace, Layton’s task is to cooperate as much as possible with the Liberals and Greens to prevent a Harperite majority. Unfortunately, he shows every indication of screwing the country just as he did in 2005.

First, his claim that the NDP is the only party that can defeat the Harperites is delusional nonsense. If Layton cannot say anything good about Stéphane Dion and the Liberal Party he should say nothing. Dion is not the enemy, and the entire country loses if the NDP fights a two-front war, but that simple fact is lost on Layton.

During the debate, Layton chastised Dion for repeatedly propping up the Harper government, but Dion is beset by intraparty dissent and the party wasn’t prepared for an election. His performance as Opposition leader has been underwhelming, but so what? Layton has also worked with Harper.

It would be a Pyrrhic victory indeed if Layton emerged as Leader of the Opposition but at the price of syphoning off enough votes in key ridings to give Harper a majority.

Second, Layton’s disrespect for Green Party leader Elizabeth May has done nothing but cost him and his party credibility. In the lead up to the debates, he sided with Dion and Harper (!) to oppose May’s inclusion. Was Layton so afraid that May would cause NDP voters to vote Green? Here’s Layton, a man claiming to speak for kitchen-table Canadians, acting as undemocratically as Harper.

In the end, the three naysayers relented but only because of an avalanche of public protest at the way May was treated. Now, Layton faces the prospect of losing votes to Green candidates and taking votes from Liberals, both of which serve Harper nicely.

If Layton had a decent chance of becoming prime minister I would argue strongly on his behalf. He’s a decent man who might make a good prime minister, but only after the NDP reinvents itself as a national party, runs on a modern platform, and can present voters with a unifying, national passion.

For help on voting strategically for your local Liberal, NDP or Green candidate in this un-election, visit: http://www.voteforenvironment.ca