23 seconds of liking Jack Layton

Various blog rumours: “Jack Layton may lend support to Stephen Harper’s government in exchange for a referendum on proportional representation.” (yay!)

Robert Silver at globeandmail.com: “If this rumour is true then it is the first move Jack Layton has made since he became leader of the NDP that is, without qualification, strategically smart.” (yes!)

Peter Zimonjic at canoe.ca: “I called up Karl Belanger, Layton’s press secretary, and asked him if there was any truth to it He gave me a flat out: NO.” (damn!)

Aaaaaaaannnnnd scene. That was fun, eh? Now, as you were everyone. As you were.

7 thoughts on “23 seconds of liking Jack Layton

  1. Whooee! Deja vu?


    Layton as power broker

    Globe and Mail Update
    Monday, February 16, 2004

    Ottawa — NDP leader Jack Layton says he’s willing to form a minority government with Paul Martin’s Liberals if the federal sponsorship scandal ends up denying the ruling party a majority of Parliamentary seats in an expected spring election.

    “If the poll lines keep going the way they are going: us up … and the Liberals down, then the probability of a minority government increases,” he said.

    But Mr. Layton says a non-negotiable precondition of any coalition with the Liberals will be holding a national referendum on switching to a new method of electing MPs to Parliament. “The condition of supporting any minority government would be that.”

    The NDP wants Canada to change to a so-called proportional representation system from the first-past-the-post method of sending MPs to the House of Commons today.


    BTW, Martin’s Liberals did go on to win a minority and Layton did have an excellent opportunity to push for PR or at least an HoC debate on electoral reform. In the Martin minority session, Layton never once mentioned PR on the floor of the house. Ed Broadbent, though, did make a 90 second private member’s statement endorsing electoral reform.

    I’d say the NDP’s commitment to PR is about as strong as its commitment to the environment. Maintaining dirty auto industry jobs (at least the unionized Big Three jobs) are far more important to the NDP than green action. Whenever the issue is teh planet versus organized labour, the party of organized labour will side against the planet. The planet doesn’t vote.


  2. Now JB, I know you’re a partisan, but that’s just a gross distortion of the federal NDP’s recent parliamentary record on electoral reform (and I’m a little disappointed you didn’t correct him Chris, but maybe you need a little education).

    To my knowledge (and I welcome other reformers to correct me if I’m wrong, particularly on the 37th parliament as I was less into the issue then), the NDP has introduced votable motions on electoral reform in the last three parliaments before this one. In the 37th, it was a motion from Lorne Nystrom to start a consultation process on electoral reform. While all NDP members voted for it, almost no one else did so it lost something like 200 to 30. You can search parl.gc.ca to see the exact vote and bill, if you want to educate yourself on the history of electoral reform in Canada.

    In the 38th parliament, as a part of the horse-trading around the Martin government’s inaugural throne speech, the NDP got it amended to instruct the Procedure and House Affairs Committee to establish a public consultation process on electoral reform that would lead to a binding referendum.

    Now you might ask, why didn’t the NDP just ask the Liberals to legislate PR? The simple fact is that they couldn’t. As Jack Layton told me (over the course of a series on questions I once posed to him on the progress of PR in that parliament), Paul Martin told him point blank when he asked him about legislating PR, “you don’t have the votes”. So not having the votes, the NDP did what they could, got that language put into the Throne Speech that would move the issue forward (I also think this subject is also touched on in Jamey Heath’s book about the same period). So at that point, I think a fair-minded observer has to give the NDP credit for moving forward the PR agenda as promised in the 2004 campaign, in the face of Liberal government opposition.

    The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs then took up the task of crafting a public education process. Now I wasn’t at all the hearings, and I wasn’t in total agreement the positioning Ed Broadbent took at the committee, but ultimately the committee produced a report that laid out a decent consultation process that would essentially combine a Citizens’ Assembly and a parliamentary committee. Now my understanding is that such a process cannot just be started by a parliamentary committee, so they had to wait for a response from Mauril Belanger, the Minister for Democratic Reform (or was it Renewal?) to start the consultation process. Now the timing becomes relevant, I believe the committee reported in May or June 2005, instructing the government to respond by shortly after the return of parliament in September.

    As an aside, the Spring of 2005 saw Belinda Stronach added to cabinet as Minister for Democratic Renewal (or was it Reform?). Note: the presence of two Ministers relating to democratic reform does not reflect a real commitment to substantive democratic reform on Prime Minister Martin’s part (and I think the facts bear me out on that).

    So the House opens again in September and cadres of electoral reformers are anxiously waiting Belanger’s plan for a public consultation. And we wait, and wait some more, the prescribed date in the Procedure and House Affairs Committee report passes (contempt of Parliament, there’s some democratic renewal). I could be imagining things, but I believe the NDP even asked a Question or two about it in the House. Now at this point, can the NDP REALLY be blamed for thinking that the Martin government would never be an honest partner on electoral reform? At least in this parliament, with the Liberals having four times as many seats? I don’t think so and I believe this is confirmed by conversations I have had with people working in the centre of government at that time that indicates that Martin’s PMO wanted nothing to do with PR. I guess Mauril Belanger’s my MP so I should maybe ask him his side of the story sometime.

    Now where I might accept that Jack and the NDP caucus might have let electoral reformers down is in their failure to try and push for the immediate legislation of PR in the final crazy days of the 38th parliament in November 2005. I wish they would have, if I were in caucus or in the decision-making circles I would have pushed HARD to make that the NDPs final demand of Martin, but knowing what I know about the politics of that issue in the House (as I have described above) and in the general population, I can’t blame them. Why? Again, they almost certainly wouldn’t have had the votes. By this time, they had lost Bev Desjarlais, so the Liberals and NDP caucuses would need the votes of at least 2 independent member to pass some bills (3 for bills that change the legislative status quo as Milliken would break ties the wrong way on those!).

    On to the 39th Parliament, the NDP made their first votable motion, introducted by Catherine Bell, basically a rehash of Ed Broadbent’s proposal from the previous parliament. Like Nystrom’s bill, it was strongly defeated, with only the support of a few Liberals. Honestly, I don’t know what more electoral refomers could have reasonably asked the NDP caucus to do on the issue in the 39th parliament. Again, they didn’t have the votes to do anything.

    As you likely know, the NDP’s first votable motion this parliament, a bill introduced by Bruce Hyer, was a reintroduction of the Climate Change Accountability Act, setting long-term science based GHG reduction targets. As Greens, I’m sure you won’t criticise the NDP for putting that bill before electoral reform in this parliament. I think it’s still young in the parliament to judge this NDP caucuses record on the issue.

    Also, the continued support of many NDP caucus members for Fair Vote and other electoral reform campaigns and organizations should be noted and has been helpful to the electoral reform movement, in my opinion.

    Now if you want to criticize the BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba NDP, go ahead and let loose, they deserve it, but not Jack, nor the members of his caucus (particularly the many, easily the majority, of them who were helpful to PEI, Ontario and now BC electoral reform campaigns).

    Thanks for giving me the bandwidth to rant Chris, but I’ve tried to give a detailed outline of the NDPs recent parliamentary history on the issue of electoral reform. I think it makes it clear that the overwhelming share of the blame for the lack of progress on the issue belongs to others (the media, the other 270ish parliamentarians, the government of the day, electoral reformers who aren’t donating enough to Fair Vote), not the federal NDP.

  3. And Jim Bobby, Jack Layton’s been calling for concerted government action to make Canada a leader in Green transportation technology since essentially the day the man became leader.

    In fact, two seconds of searching on the Internet showed me that he introduced a “Green Car Strategy” in July 2003 – http://www.perc.ca/PEN/2003-11/s-boddy4.html.

    If only Jack had won the election in 2004, perhaps we would now have “all companies selling new passenger vehicles in Canada to meet at least five per cent of their total Canadian unit sales with AFVs by 2010”, a “25 per cent improvement in the average fuel efficiency of motor vehicles sold in Canada” and led a global “clean car summit to work towards global coordination to significantly reduce pollution through increased global fuel efficiency”.

    Saying that Jack Layton loves “dirty auto industry jobs” more than the environment is like saying Elizabeth May doesn’t care about climate change. It’s nothing but a baseless partisan attack that ignores the public record and their history of activism.

  4. Now, Sasky, we ain’t supposed to compare the provincial parties to the federal versions — unless it’s a favourable comparison, that is. Provincial NDP governments have been lacklustre in the environmental department, too.

    As far as my original comment and Mark’s excellent historical reportage, I’ll admit this is a personal issue for me. I am a big proponent of PR and that was one of my biggest reasons for joining the Green Party. Yes, I’m partisan but even as a GPC member, I was swayed enough by Jack’s non-negotiable precondition that I voted NDP. We had a particularly strong NDP candidate in my riding and I took Jack at his word, held my nose a little and voted NDP — not for the first time in my life, btw.

    Jack’s support was instrumental in saving Martin’s Liberals on the budget vote. Cadman was crucial but without full NDP support, Martin would surely fall. I saw this as Jack’s opening to at least push for something in the budget to move PR along. Some funding for some official studies on PR systems and/or some funding of opinion gathering on democratic reform. Jack emerged with >$4 billion in concessions but nothing at all about electoral reform.

    If the Cons can radically change something as basic as immigration policy by way of a budget, surely Layton could have got some small token budget item for Electoral Reform. He didn’t and I felt betrayed.


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