For anyone out there spending this weekend offering up prayers and sacrificing goats to the election gods, those are, indeed, soothing-sounding words that are pouring forth from Jack Layton on his desire to Make Parliament Work — a phrase that has, ITQ must once again point out, gone from being an irritatingly vague, but tolerable political cliche to what linguists refer to as a ‘discourse particle‘.
But a “former member of the prime minister’s communications staff who spoke on the condition that he not be identified” tells CanWest’s David Akin that Stephen Harper may remember all too well what happened the last time the NDP helped out a minority prime minister:
Harper, according to some of his advisers, believes Layton is now angling to do the same thing to him that Layton did to Martin: extract concessions to advance the NDP agenda, then withdraw that support and campaign on the party’s achievements in advancing that agenda.
“Harper will be damned before he lets Layton do that,” said a former member of the prime minister’s communications staff, speaking on condition he not be identified.
Darrell Bricker, president of pollster Ipsos Reid, says Layton’s strategy was a good one for 2005 — but it won’t work now. “He has to have somebody like Martin who’s afraid to go to the people,” Bricker said. “The problem he’s got with Harper is that Harper probably wants an election.”
Honestly, if that former communications staffer is right about what they’re thinking around the tactics table at Langevin, it’s hard to see how even the promised employment insurance reform package will Layton any more than a few weeks grace before he’ll have to make a very difficult decision — and that’s only if it includes something that he can at least claim reflects the will of the NDP, even though it would be difficult for him to take credit for it if he doesn’t even get a courtesy copy of the bill in advance, let alone any actual input as far as the contents.
But let’s say it does — heck, why wouldn’t the kitchen table party want to open up EI benefits to the self-employed, after all? Even then, there will be more confidence votes between next Friday and the Christmas break, and if the prime minister does want to go now — or, at least, isn’t about to lift a beckoning finger to Jack Layton in order to stave off defeat in the House — he could easily introduce legislation that the NDP would find impossible to support.
Meanwhile, by voting with the government, he’d be throwing away what has become one of his party’s most oft-repeated talking points in both the last campaign, and the lead-up to this one: that only the NDP can be counted on to stand up to the Harper government. They’re only too happy to remind all and sundry of those 79 confidence votes that the Liberals allowed the current government to win — what happens when the NDP tally rises from 0 to 1 to however many the prime minister throws in his path?