Jack Layton on building the NDP's Quebec campaign surprise - Macleans.ca

Jack Layton on building the NDP’s Quebec campaign surprise

Why success in Quebec is the product of carefully laid foundations, not some quirk of this particular race


Photograph by Jessica Darmanin

With polls showing the NDP surging in Quebec, one of the big questions going into the election campaign’s stretch run is whether that spike in the party’s support is for real, or one of those fleeting campaign developments that have a way of evaporating by voting day.

Not surprisingly, Jack Layton told the Maclean’s editorial board Thursday morning that his party’s Quebec success is the product of carefully laid foundations, not some quirk of this particular race.  The NDP leader— who represents a Toronto riding, but grew up in Hudson, Que.—reminisced his own family’s deep roots in Montréal.

But beyond his own Quebec background, he spoke of how the NDP platform’s focus on hiring and training more family doctors, creating jobs and improving retirement security resonate in the province.

Layton even suggested that making progress on those sorts of issues might be the first step towards getting Quebec to sign the Constitution. “If we could be addressing those issues,” he said, “then we might find ourselves creating the conditions where we could come to that discussion about how to bring Quebec fully into the Canadian family.”

Beyond his core platform on economic and social policy, he defended the NDP’s proposal to extend French-language rights in Quebec to federally regulated industries. The NDP has drafted a bill that would amend the Canada Labour Code, which applies to sectors like interprovincial transportation, banking and telecommunications, to guarantee the right to work in French in those industries.

But Layton denied that would mean Ottawa effectively legislating against the use of English, the other official language.  “That’s not what it’s about,” he said, describing the proposed law’s aim as “ensuring the rights of a French-speaking person to be able to work in that language.”

His perspective on Quebec is bound to get a lot more scrutiny in the coming days if the polls in the province continue trending dramatically in his direction.

The latest, a CROP survey published in the Montréal newspaper La Presse today, pegged NDP support 36 per cent, a startling five points better than the Bloc Québécois at 31 per cent, and far outstripping the Conservatives at 17 per cent and the Liberals at 13 per cent.

Clearly relishing the attention that comes from that sort of polling result, Layton held forth at some length on how he got there. “My goal as leader,” he said, “is to build our support all over the country and move beyond little islands that are strong out with some pretty great gaps, the biggest gap of course has always been Quebec.”

He continued: “I think this is probably one of the reasons why people took a chance and voted for me for leader, because I was born there, maybe the first leader we had that was. Maybe he’ll understand what we have to do. I always likened it to building a house. You know, you start with a foundation. People kept saying to me, ‘Why aren’t you making any progress, Jack?’

“The first thing you do is dig a hole, that’s not very interesting, then the next thing you do is lay footing, that’s an ugly piece of concrete, and then you start building the foundation wall, and the problem is that for our party we never built one quarter of the foundation, and then we started building the house and then the wind came along and down it went. And I said, ‘We’re going to take our time here, we’re going to do this right, and we’re going to build that foundation.’ And we’ve done that now.”

The test of Layton’s workmanship in Quebec will be seeing if he maintain and build his current support from now until May 2. When the House broke for the election, he had just one Quebec MP, Thomas Mulcair, the key architect of that NDP language proposal for ensuring French is spoken inside Quebec in industries regulated by Ottawa.


Jack Layton on building the NDP’s Quebec campaign surprise

  1. Even though it's almost certain not to last, the latest EKOS seat projections certainly are interesting!

    Cons – 134
    Libs – 82
    NDP – 60
    BQ – 32

    That looks an awful lot like Ontario in 1985, and the only way the Conservatives could topple a Lib-NDP gov't is with the support of the Separatistes.

    Man, things certainly have gotten interesting, haven't they?

    • I doubt if it will play out that way. EKOS seat projections are unrealistic and if you look at and Bricker here, there is a tremendous amount of variance. regardless of how you look at it, if I were MI I'd be pi$$ing my pants.

      • DPT is correct.

    • Harper would have to invent a new self-serving reason a coalition/agreement/whatever-Harper-says-at-the-moment is illegitimate on the spot!

      • at 43% there would be no need to.

    • Would love to see this scenario transpire into reality. Just how many crows would Harper eat, monthly?

  2. we need a majority goverament and a stong opposition to debate issues , the way this is shaping up is worrysome , you may as well have no govenment , as nothing can be dealt with , the liberals or the ndp simply say that they"have lost confidence" in goverment simply shuts it down , they then get to "try" , with the bloc and the cons saying they "have lost confidence" in the house ……….where does this end ? Vote NDP.
    Let Iggy raise up and float back to the USA he's more comfy there .

    • Tom – it would be tough for the Bloc + Cons to vote "non confidence" and win if they held fewer than half of the seats in Parliament. I think a LIB/NDP government might get stuff done.

    • Not only would I not vote NDP, I wouldn't even by a car from the great debater.

  3. Jack plays baccarat while the other leaders play roulette.

  4. the NDP platform's focus on hiring and training more family doctors…

    So, will PM Layton get Ottawa to usurp from provincial authority the hiring or the training of family doctors, or both?

    • One of our "journalists" should also ask Jack where he will find the 5000 doctors

      • Part of their plan was the send immigrant doctors back to school to complete a bridging program so they can work here too – a lot of immigrants have nearly the same qualifications, but their degrees don't transfer, he's proposing we bridge that et voila, a few thousand new doctors in a few years.

        • Common sense like this deserves to get re-elected to leadership.

          I trust Jack. I'll vote NDP.

    • Wow, I haven't witnessed such a limited view of federal-provincial relations in several decades. What's next, lessons on how best to start up our flying carpets?

  5. I was listening to some Stan Rogers this morning. His voice has a way of stirring the soul. "Tracing one warm line…"

    Listening to "Mary Ellen Carter" and hearing Stan cry out "Rise again, Rise again" reminded me of Ignatieff's "Rise up , Rise up". I couldn't help but think that Micheal would have done much better to quote Stan Rogers rather than Bruce Springsteen. After all, this is Canada; not the American Mid-west.

    Left-leaning Canadian federalists are rejecting Micheal Ignatieff because of his un-Canadian-ness. We actually don't want to be preached to by someone who doesn't understand the nuances of Canadian spirit and culture.

    Jack happens to be whole-heartedly Canadian. (although a union-loving, fiscally foolish one) That, and only that, is why liberal-minded federalist Canadians are defecting to the NDP.

    • Bruce is from Jersey.

      • Stan Rogers would despise Harper as a coward and a liar and a wannabe Republican.

        Rogers was a good man. Harper is not.

        • Pele was talking about MI & Stan – how does Harper figure in?

    • I still wouldn't buy a car from Jack

    • You say you don't want to be preached to, then you endeavor to preach via demonizing Layton – alas, another witless scud from the Cons

  6. Layton is the only one who wants to tackle the crooks on Bay Street and the big banks.

    Enough said !

    • Layton is the only one who'll cater to the crooks running the public sector unions and special interest activist groups.

      Enough said !

      • They both need to be tackled…. the only question is, with which do you want to start ?

        The 0.8% that control 35 % of Canada's wealth (much of which through unfair practices) or the 25 % that control 40% of Canada's wealth (much of which through unfair practices) ?

        Both are unfair and have special agendas that don't benefit "average joe"

        Your choice ! LOL !!!

  7. In Canada, since 1867…its been Tweedle-dum or Tweedle-dee.

    I trust Jack. New Democrats speak up for people.

    I'm voting NDP.

    • I'm a person. I don't trust Jack. New Democrats are about as sincere as any other party when they claim to speak up for the average guy. Which really isn't a whole lot.

      Jack Layton caters to public sector unions and special interest groups, all of whom are dedicated to bankrupting our country to pad their own pockets. You may not like big corporations, but big unions and professional activist organizations aren't one Iota more ethical. Please just admit you're picking your preferred poison.

      • Public or private, workers are Canadians with friends and families. Our pay-cheques support businesses and the economy.

        Apologize for Harper if you like. Remain ignorant of Canadian history if you like.

        U.S. corporate tax rates of 35% exist. In Canada rates of 18% – 19% are reasonable and competitive. Revenue is returned to the public purse and tax pressure on families/ retirees is reduced.

        Harper's Republican vision of private Healthcare, low wages and corporate welfare may be your choice.

        On May 2, Canadian voters will reject this choice.

        I trust Jack. New Democrats speak up for people. I'm voting NDP.

        • If I were to use your logic, I could just as easily state that big corporations and CEO's spend lots of money which support business and the economy. Whether unions/special interest groups or corporations, that logic cancels itself out. It doesn't prefer any side.

          Corporate taxation in the US is considerably different than in Canada. It ranges from approx. 15% to 35%. Depending on the State and situation, it usually runs 18-22%. However, there are transactions that aren't federally taxed in the States that are taxed here.

          It's a false argument to oppose the Conservative proposed corporate tax cut. It will, in fact, stimulate investment in Canada, build our economy and augment our tax base at a precarious time in the global marketplace. Especially when you factor in Europe and Asian.

          Jack Layton does not have the expertise to deal effectively with our economy. In this case, Ignatieff is right. The NDP is amateur hour. See Bob Rae circa 1990's.

      • .
        If big unions are a problem, then people can fix them. Reform is possible everywhere. People just have to be peaceful and cooperative about it.

        Harper and these premiers are going the Wisconsin route against labour. That is far worse than the unions. That's going to lead to the 12 hour 6 day training-wage all around the world.

        • I'm not so sure about Wisconsin being worse than unions… Unions in the PRIVATE SECTOR ARE FINE IN WISCONSIN.

          Regardless, the article is between the Bloc and the NDP in Quebec. Who knows, maybe the Conservatives will learn from this that cutting taxes to banks is a stupid idea when you are running a deficit. Had they left the corporate taxes alone, they would be breezing towards a majority these days instead of worrying… and they would have even more money to spend on planes and the military without anyone complaining.

          Oh well… we can still laugh at these clowns !

        • I'd like to believe that reform is possible through cooperation and communication. However, I think history has proven that that's a little too Pollyannish.

          If the Conservatives are anti-union thugs, then the unions are anti-corporation thugs. Unfortunately, BOTH sides view the issue as a zero-sum game where the ends justifies the means.

          A smart voter knows what poison to pick at which time so as to ameliorate the big picture for Canada as a whole. Every indicator points to the Conservatives at this time. We'll just have to reassess in four years.

      • Hehe, if you have a choice between the NDP and the Bloc (remember, this article is about Quebec) , which do you choose ?

        At least the NDP is there for a reason. Once the Bloc is removed, there will be real political debates in Quebec between the center right, the center left and the left.

        If Quebec wants to go to the left, that's fine. Same as for the Center (right or left).

        The Bloc on the other hand is an archaic remains from an age tainted by Pierre Elliot Trudeau and the failed attempt at Charlottetown.

        They should be gone….

        • Amen to that.

    • Amen

  8. .
    The polls are land-line, or on-line, cut-rate crap. Only one poll counts.

    Layton is real.

  9. Seeing the various CPC and LIB talking heads squabbling like children and ignoring or denying the facts – I'd say Jack has them worried. All I care about is – any combination of the other parties would govern in a less idoelogical and open manner than Mr. Harper – and that would be good enough for me!

  10. Such a novel approach …Hey Quebec! Whatever you want, and uh uh uh…. the rest of Canada??

    Jack is telling fairy-tales is wonderland – perfect fit

    • It's unfortunate that so many Quebeckers aren't seeing through the emptiness of his message. This Québecoise has! :)

  11. Layton Mania !

    Jack won the debates for me, no other leader can touch Jack as an average Joe Canadian you can TRUST.

    I was considering voting Liberal(ABHarperRegime), but when Jack mentioned the Liberal leaders lack of attendance it really hit a nerve for me, as I've always thought to myself that I just cant picture Iggy sitting their in opposition if he looses the leadership?, I think he'll be long gone back to his American home.

    The hardest working MP in Parliament, bar none.

    • Look, I know you had a good day over at NDP headquarters, but don`t be counting those chickens while they are still Easter Eggs.

      • And subject to Egg Management Fees.

    • Uh, you can't trust Jack, any more than Michael, Stephen or Gilles. They're politicians. Try to take an adult view of things.

  12. Spread the poverty around with Socialism – it's never worked before, and it won't work now!

    Jack Layton has never done anything for anyone – except Jack Layton.

    He rode around Toronto on his bicycle when he was a councillor whining to any television camera that would have him saying that other politicians were getting things done – and he didn't like that, he always found something to criticize and added the usual socialist slogans for good measure, that's it. Empty suit.

    • Spread the poverty around with Socialism – it's never worked before, and it won't work now!

      Spreading the poverty around works perfectly with socialism. Unless you are in power.

  13. Old Santa Jack won those debates for me too. Whatever you want Santa Jack will bring it to you, Quebec has it, so can you! Hey, quit your job whats the point (you might even be harming the environment) Old Santa Jack will take care of the details.

  14. The way I see it the Cons and the Libs have both been so sleazy over the past decades that the NDP could hardly do any worse, I say we make them prove they can do it right.. They have always been the ones who stickhandled through the good social programs like medicare which we all like, and Jack is a good man, their best leader since Douglas imo. Remember TC used to call the the red and blue Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dummer, never more true than today! Let's elect a govt that will actually DO SOMETHING FOR US instead of sitting on their butts collecting tax dollars to play silly political games.

  15. Interesting. Did you know that Layton *is* the image of the NDP in Qc? His picture is the one you see everywhere, not his candidates. He is running on his image, solely. Except of course for a few ridings, and of course, Mulcair.

    Mulcair, Layton's golden boy, who residents of Outremont and Québec know isn't so golden. He actually has a reputation of being a back stabber and of having a vicious tongue. The national media paints Mulcair as some saint, but those who are in his district, such as me, have seen other sides of him. Anyone who attended the debate in Outremont last week saw how nasty and vicious he can be. He alienated liberal candidate Martin Cauchon, conservative candidate Rudy Husny, and pretty much anyone who was in the room. A gentleman, he is not.

    Even this bloquist expresses how vicious Mulcair can be: http://ow.ly/4FYBQ — an very telling article.

    He also totally milked the Barlagne incident. He was their MP for years and never did a thing. Now that it is election time, he's next to them, fighting with them. What a hypocrite!

    To be honest, I want Harper out more than anything, more than sticking to my Liberal guns. But even if I thought that Mulcair had a chance of winning against Cauchon (which I don't), I could not bring myself to vote for such a hypocrite.

  16. @tourist13- "At the end of the day, the NDP are a socialist party and will push for a socialist agenda. No thanks."

    At the end of the day, the Conservatives are a Fascists party and will push for a totalitarian agenda. No thanks!. LOL!.