With Jack Layton Gone, Canadian Opposition Parties Regroup

Parliament Re-toolsCanada is poorer this week because we buried our friend Jack Layton over the weekend.  It was a wonderful celebration for a great Canadian.  I do not subscribe to the fact that the fuss over Jack Layton was a bigger deal than it should’ve been.  If any other opposition leader had the same track record as Jack Layton, under the circumstances the same fuss would have been made.  Let’s move on and remember what a wonderful Canadian Jack Layton was.

It will be interesting to see how the political landscape changes.  Jack Layton was everything to the NDP and the chief reason that they increased their seat total in Québec.  So now that he is gone the NDP will have a serious challenge to do better.  When election results are based on personality versus substance, it is very difficult to turn that around.  As we move ahead it’s completely obvious that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a political environment ahead of him wide open.

However, the Prime Minister shouldn’t take that as a blank cheque to do whatever he wants.  He has that right with a majority government and I’m sure that many core policies of the Conservatives will see the light of day.  I have no trouble with that, as the results of the last federal election were very clear.  What is less clear is how the opposition parties will take their place in the next few years.

If Jack Layton had lived I think it is entirely plausible that they would’ve supplanted the Liberal party of Canada.  They had taken 58 seats out of Québec and obliterated the Bloc Quebecois.  They had reasonable strength in Ontario and were only a couple weeks away from possibly taking that province too.  However, with the new reality before us all of that is lost.  Much will depend on the next leader of the NDP to sustain the gains Jack Layton brought.

I really do not know how that is going to play out.  For instance, what does the NDP do?  Do they pick a new leader from the 58 MPs from Québec?  Or do they go to some of the more established MPs who were reelected in the last election?  Would they pick somebody who’s not elected into Parliament, like their party president or somebody completely different?  There are so many choices to make and so much blue sky ahead.  The void left by Jack Layton is enormous.

The Liberal party has a long way back too.  In many ways it is almost hard to believe how far they have fallen.  Bob Rae is the interim leader for a couple years but he is of a generation past.  When you think of the new young people in the Liberal party, I’m not quite sure that they would play in the new Canada.  With Stephen Harper having put together a majority without Québec, it represents a new way of gaining power in Canada.  The Liberal party was very good at gaining power with Québec.  They have no experience of gaining power without Québec.

I read a tweet on Twitter the other day from a sitting Liberal MP who said their current meetings in Ottawa were being brutally honest.  I’m not so sure on what that means but I suppose it can’t be a bad thing.  Politics is a dirty business at the best of times and when you are out of power, I suppose brutal honesty is an abundant supply.

I am hoping that both our opposition parties will get back on their feet quickly.  There is nothing good about governments with weak opposition figures.  They tend to go arrogant and their policy gets weak.  Governments with strong opposition figures tend to be more responsive and less prone to scandal.  Yes, it is and will continue to be a long and winding road for opposition parties.

So as we move ahead, let’s choose hope over despair.  Where have you read that before?  At the end of the day, that little ditty goes a long way.  Something tells me though that it will get lost when Parliament resumes sitting.  Our politicians love to yell at each other.

All of these musings about our federal opposition parties will surely get drowned out by the up coming provincial election.  That surely will keep us busy for a while.  When the dust clears, we may have a new political landscape.  Our federal opposition parties will surely be part of that.