Thinking about Jack Layton. More thoughts of a Liberal-NDP merger may have room to surface.
by Tom Thorne
I wanted to take 48 hours to let Jack Layton’s announcement about his fight with cancer sink in. It’s hard to really fathom the implications of his illness and the effect it will have on the NDP and how parliament operates until we know more about his prognosis. Many have commented already that he is the NDP. I don’t agree. No one is that indispensable.
If Jack’s finest hour was his performance during the last federal election that would be enough legacy if he is gone permanently. The way he rolled up Quebec was very much a personal triumph. Whatever happens now he will always be remembered for his personal appeal to Quebec voters who frankly were simply fed up with semi-separatists who provided wishy-washy direction for how Quebeckers live and work each day in a North American and Canadian context.
Jack Layton has passed the temporary leadership to Nycole Turmel a rooky MP from Quebec. Many thought Thomas Mulcair would receive the nod. Turmel is an interesting choice as interim NDP leader. There is four years of a turgid Stephen Harper governing style ahead of us and Turmel may be an interesting contrast against the heavy handed Tories with their doctrinaire agendas . It’s also refreshing to get a woman leader in parliament. Jack may have considered that when he endorsed Turmel.
Quebec will love Jack’s choice. It is not what the Conservatives would have expected and she may very well turn out to be great as a counterpoint to the dullness and predictability of the Tory benches.
Will Jack Layton return?
The real question is whether Jack Layton will ever return to parliament. If he doesn't, the question will be asked whether the NDP can maintain its momentum without him. The answer will always to be yes from the loyal hardcore NDP standpoint. Jack Layton is a great asset but the NDP is now a forced to deal with both for the Conservatives in ascendancy and the Liberals who now have an opening but with their own prospects still dimmed.
Some of us who still see Liberal-NDP merger possibilities sometime in the near future may now have seen that prospect as more likely to happen than ever before. This is especially true if Jack Layton does not return. A merger would bring together the more progressive elements of Canadian politics under one tent as the Conservatives did when they merged The Reform Party with the Progressive Conservatives. That action has served to polarize Canadian politics.
The Liberals still say no because they not able to escape old ideas of returning to power as Canada’s Natural Governing Party. The NDP in respect of their leader's current situation will not bring up any prospects of a merger especially when they have achieved Official Opposition status. However, as I have written before, this merger is inevitable if the Conservatives are to be bested at the polls four or so years from now.
Without Jack Layton both the Liberals and the NDP will be doing rebuilding providing the Harper government with a lot of majority government clear sailing. Is there an opportunity for political middle ground to emerge? It is at this moment directly related to Jack Layton's health.
Bob Rae as the caretaker Liberal leader is sympathetic to a merger with the NDP by his earlier admission after the last election. However, the very temporary nature of his tenure will not enable him to start this process. It will have to come from the senior Liberal party officials. Not even that will happen as long as the prospect of Jack Layton's recovery is a possibility.
The status quo is what we will now get from the NDP as the Official Opposition. If they show any disorganization the Conservatives will eat them alive and as the memory of the Layton years as leader fades they will take off the gloves for bare knuckle rounds in the House of Commons and on the hustings splitting the vote again in their favour. That is why the Canadian middle and left political parties in this country must merge.
Sudden illness is always a change element both personally and for any organization the sick person leads. The reality is hard. Naturally we all want Jack Layton to recover and return to the Canadian political stage. However, the brutal truth is, no one, no matter how good, respected and loved they are is irreplaceable. The gritty business of providing an opposition against a right wing agenda endorsed by only 38 percent of the Canadian electorate remains no matter what leaders come and go.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved