Layton Asked Greens For A Deal In 2004

Darnitall. I keep wanting to stop fighting with the NDP on this. I really do. But I’m exceptionally bad at backing down from a debate. Call it a weakness.

It was upsetting enough to listen to Ed Broadbent, a person who I respected, yell angrily at Elizabeth May on the radio in what I felt was an irrational, inconsistent and purely partisan way. And it’s been upsetting enough to listen to what I would call Jack Layton’s hypocrisy in opposing cooperation with Elizabeth after he’s been cooperating with Stephen Harper all this time, and by refusing to talk to her while instead saying he’d like to talk to the Taliban.

Now, it turns out the hypocrisy runs even deeper. Today The Toronto Star reports that Jack Layton asked then-Green-Party-Leader Jim Harris not to run candidates against the NDP in 2004.

Former Green party leader Jim Harris says NDP Leader Jack Layton sought a deal with him before the 2004 federal election, so he’s baffled why New Democrats are suddenly saying that it’s wrong for the Greens and Liberals to co-operate in the next campaign.

“Methinks they doth protest too much,” Harris said in an interview yesterday, describing a meeting he held at a College St. café in Toronto with Layton before the 2004 campaign.

Layton has been one of the most vocal opponents of the pact reached last week between Green Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, by which both parties agree to let the leaders run unchallenged in their Nova Scotia and Montreal ridings in the next campaign.

Layton has condemned this as “wheeling and dealing” that denies citizens the right to vote for parties of their choice.

But according to Harris, Layton asked for the Greens not to run candidates in 2004 and to endorse the NDP instead. A 2004 newspaper story makes mention of the meeting and includes confirmation from an NDP strategist that Layton was looking for the Greens to back his party.

To review, what Elizabeth and Stephane Dion did was decide not to run candidates against each other, and to endorse each other as valuable Parliamentarians. Elizabeth did not endorse the Liberal party itself, and, of course, Green candidates including myself will be giving Liberal candidates a run for their piles and piles of money all across the country. Layton, on the other hand, wanted Jim Harris and the Green Party to actually endorse the NDP and not run many or any candidates against them.

I’ve sent a few messages to NDP friends over the past few days trying to make peace, and I know that by pointing out this latest development I’m probably not helping my cause. But this is the first time I’ve actually gotten emotional about this whole thing. I don’t mind my party or my leader being attacked — in fact, I welcome it. Greens are now being taken seriously and criticism comes with the job. I just wish those attacks were based on fact and integrity. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Hopefully we can all get our eyes back on the rapidly overheating ball that we call home soon. Name calling is fun and all, but when we are (or should be) in crisis mode, it’s pretty irresponsible.

2 thoughts on “Layton Asked Greens For A Deal In 2004

  1. Name calling and factless-rejoinders shouldn’t be part of any mature debate.

    But as Layton says in the story, it was Harris who requested the meeting because he had a list of his own demands, including that the NDP stand down against Green candidates.

    Harris’ version of events is baseless. People who worked the 2004 NDP campaign say the strategy on the Greens was to not talk about them at all. Talking about them gave them air. The edict was strictly enforced at all levels.

    In spite of what Harris says now, there was no way Layton was going to do what Dion did and give them the time of day, let alone brokering the kind of deal Harris alleges.

    Back to the substance of the Dion-May deal though: no one is dismissing the need for cooperation, but it needs to happen between MPs in Parliament not before an election. Parties cooperating before an election isn’t cooperation. it’s vote fixing.

  2. I don’t want to, well, blog a dead horseTM here, but the NDP have consistently asked Greens not to run against them (if not in this case, as you argue, then in BC), and blamed Greens for “stealing” their votes, as if votes belong to any party. Either it’s wrong for parties to work together in this way or it’s not.

    “Vote fixing” is also far too strong. The vote is still very much free and open, and voters in both ridings will have, I’m sure, many candidates to choose from. The NDP used to agree that it didn’t make sense that, under our archaic voting system, over 600,000 people voted Green in the last election without electing a single MP. Now that it looks like that problem might be somewhat rectified, they’re suddenly silent on that point.

    And again, just in case anyone’s unclear on this point, this is only a leader-for-leader courtesy. I say that because I just talked to someone who thought it was a large-scale endorsement with concessions in multiple ridings. In my experience, once people (who aren’t affiliated with parties) realize that we’re only talking about two ridings based on two individuals’ mutual respect, they fail to see what all the fuss is about.

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