By Jason Menard
That sight you’re seeing is Jack Layton’s ass – or making an ass of himself – as he ran right by El Matador Paul Martin with his bull-headed determination to separate himself from the Liberals.
But has he done so at the expense of his own party?
Martin can afford to be cavalier with his negotiations with the New Democrats because, right now, they need him more than the Liberals need the NDP. It’s a far cry from a few months ago when the Liberals needed Layton’s support to stave off an election call in the midst of questions regarding the Gomery report.
Now Martin is not just emboldened by his exoneration, but also by the fact that he knows, as well as everyone else except Layton it appears, that no one really wants to call a snap election in the winter.
Believe whatever poll you want, the fact is that a winter election will favour the incumbents. At best, we may see a small Liberal minority as frustrated lower-case conservatives and disgruntled lefties who previously threw their weight behind the NDP find their way back to the new and improved Liberals!
Despite whatever tough-talk rhetoric the Conservatives may be spouting, the fact of the matter is that they’d much rather wait for a more opportune time to take on the Liberals. Still reeling from internal squabbling, a leader that hasn’t screamed authority, and the fact that many Canadians still don’t see the Party as a viable alternative, the Conservative Party would prefer to have the extra time to build up some momentum, strengthen its foundation, and head to battle in the early Spring.
And the NDP, possibly drunk from its relative power, seems to have gone in over its head. Instead of realizing that its position of power in a minority government is as good as it’s going to get, Layton is rolling the dice that people will view his tough talk as political savvy – not political folly.
Unfortunately, such delusions of grandeur can be political suicide. Instead of using the position of privilege to insert some NDP-flavoured social reforms into the budget, the party may find itself with a lesser position after the next election. But perhaps Layton was feeling pressured to make a statement and affirm the Party’s individuality so that the long-time NDP supporters wouldn’t feel like their leadership was getting too close to the enemy.
And the Bloc? Well, they’re pretty secure in Quebec, so they don’t really care one way or the other. Thanks to the Gomery bungling of the province, it’s pretty safe to say that the hard-liners and soft separatists alike will make a beeline to the BQ whenever the polls open. For at least a campaign or two, the Liberals are persona non grata in la belle province – and both the Liberals and Bloc know it, and will factor that into their campaign focus.
So now we’re going to be privy of the most genteel display of politicking. The Conservatives and the NDP will fall all over themselves in their public politeness, “After you,” “No, after you,” “No, I insist – you make the first move to bring down the government,” “No, no – you go first…”
Neither party wants to put its neck out on the line first. Nor do they want to get too cosy to each other with their ideological opposition. And, of course, nobody wants to incur the wrath of the voters who may be forced to cut into their holiday festivities as a result of electioneering.
All the while, the Liberals will be sitting back, steeling itself for another foray into the political ring, emboldened by the knowledge that they’ve taken their opponents best blows and, while they may be reeling, they’re still on their feet and not yet ready to throw in the towel. They now can work at putting the past behind them, focussing on important key regions, like urban British Columbia (hello Asian trade initiatives). They can talk tough trade with our neighbours to the south (nothing like a little anti-Americanism to stir up the political pot). And they can prepare to come out swinging next election – the heralds calling out the dawn of a new Liberal party, despite the fact that it’s comprised of a majority of people (except a noted 10) from the old guard.
Layton made his charge and Martin deftly avoided it, daring the NDP to make the next move. The NDP, and by extension the Conservatives, can only hope that their horns aren’t stuck in the wall – and that they don’t end up the traditional way bullfights end – dead with a triumphant matador standing above them.
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