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jack layton

The longtime leader of the NDP and official opposition leader of Canada, Jack Layton, lost his battle with cancer this morning at age 61:

“We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones,” the statement read.

Layton led a party that I often didn’t agree with. I wasn’t a big fan of him as a politician, either. I mocked his used-car-salesman demeanour, his debate tactics, his party’s habit of apologizing for extremism or drawing false moral equivalencies, and even his moustache.

All of that aside, though, his death is a tragedy, just as any death from cancer is a tragedy. It also comes at a time when the country is, more than ever, in the iron grip of a Conservative party that is doing frightening things to our political landscape. The NDP’s historic gains in the May election, which vaulted them into official opposition status, meant that Layton was expected to play a major role in doing whatever he could to keep the Tories in check. Now, of course, this duty will pass onto someone else.

Canadians of all political stripes – left, right or the kitchen sink – will mourn Layton’s passing, and rightly so. I didn’t always agree him, but  even where we disagreed, I recognize that he was acting for what he believed was his vision for Canada. My condolences to Olivia Chow and to the rest of Layton’s family and friends.

You can read the text of Layton’s last letter to Canadians here.

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With about 36 hours to go until the polls open, it’s time for me to post my totally unscientific, personal-opinion-only musings about the election and what the likely outcomes will be:

  • The NDP will win 10 seats in Quebec. With polls showing an NDP surge in support, this could be the breakthrough that Jack Layton was looking for. I don’t, however, believe that Gilles Duceppe’s seat (my riding) will be one of them. I think he’ll hold onto his seat here, albeit by a slim margin.
  • The Liberals will under-perform. No, it won’t be a  total collapse, a la Progressive Conservatives circa Kim Campbell. They’ll hold onto their safe seats and maybe even steal a couple from the Tories in places where the anti-Tory vote goes Liberal. But the surge in NDP support in Quebec will mostly be at the expense of the Bloc, everywhere else in Canada it will mostly come at the Liberals’ expense.
  • NDP/Liberal vote splitting will help the Tories. A cynic would say that the Harper camp is exaggerating the groundswell of support for the NDP, in a classic divide-and-conquer strategy in order to try and engineer a majority. I’m not quite that cynical, and I think the NDP’s support has emerged for a variety of other reasons. But I do think that the Conservatives will pick up a handful of seats due to NDP/Liberal vote splitting. That being said…
  • The Conservatives will be held to another minority government. I think that there’s enough anyone-but-Harper support out there, helped by initiatives like Project Democracy, to stave off the dreaded Harper majority. I hope.
  • The Greens will once again fail to pick up any seats. Their support has stagnated and there aren’t any ridings where their candidates are demonstrating a lead – or even a close second.  The party began as a sensible alternative to the status quo, but has shifted more and more towards the fringe, policy-wise, in the past few years. And with all the mainstream parties (except for the Tories) making environmental issues a big part of their platforms, there are fewer reasons than ever to vote Green.

Remember to vote!

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Back to the polls we go

03.30.2011

High-ho, high-ho, it’s election time again in Canada. And it sure does feel an awful lot like 2008: 4 out of 5 of the party leaders are unchanged. Only Iggy is new this time around, though his post-election political days are probably as numbered as Stephane Dion’s were. The party positions and platforms are largely […]

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The English debate

10.02.2008

Well, it was lively and even funny at times. That’s all I can really say about the debate format that provided more of a chance for attack zingers than real reasoned debate. Still, I guess it made for good TV, since we were all glued to the screen for a couple of hours – the […]

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Layton’s fuzzy logic

04.01.2007

Jack Layton things that the rise of the ADQ in Quebec means that more Quebeckers will vote NDP in the next federal election: Layton told about 100 NDP supporters on Saturday that the rise of the ADQ was spurred by a rejection of the province’s two “old” parties. “They wanted to see something new,” he […]

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Only the CBC could have come up with this headline

01.17.2006

Martin attacks Layton for not attacking Harper. Catch that? And in related news, Duceppe attacks Harper for not attacking Layton for Martin’s attack on him. I’m starting to understand American politics better, where the word “attack” is usually followed by something like “Iraq”.

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Reflections on the debate

01.09.2006

Update: Reflections now that the debate is over: Someone needs to buy Paul Martin a stopwatch, so he can time his statements better. There was hardly a segment in which he didn’t get cut off for nearly going over his time. Jack Layton really needs to stop phrasing every answer with his slogan that there […]

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Martin deals with Layton

04.26.2005

Once again demonstrating his perpetual spinelessness and willingness to do anything to hang onto power, Paul Martin struck a deal with Jack Layton, making “concessions” in exchange for an NDP promise to vote for the budget. What sort of “concessions”? The usual NDP mixed bag. Deferring corporate tax cuts in favour of $4.6 billion in […]

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Martin caves to NDP bribery

04.25.2005

Is it just me, or are our politicians holding a contest these days for “most spineless”? Martin may succumb to Layton’s blackmail by agreeing to defer corporate tax cuts in the federal budget in exchange for a promise for the NDP to support the budget: The apparent concession came just hours after Prime Minister Paul […]

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It’s still close

06.28.2004

One last thought on the election before I go to sleep: It’s still close. Many ridings were won with squeakers, and others are still undecided. With recounts, the results may still change enough to make a difference. At the moment, the NDP and Liberals are combining for 157 seats. Remember that 155 is needed for […]

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