NDP's Layton Ready to Play Central Role

By Bill Curry
Published June 29th 2004 in Montreal Gazette

NDP leader Jack Layton vowed to press Prime Minister Paul Martin on cities, proportional representation and a national child-care program now that he has received the "central role" he requested in a Liberal minority Parliament.

The combined number of Liberal and NDP MPs will be enough to keep the minority government afloat provided the Liberals and NDP are able to secure an arrangement.

"Over the last week, Paul Martin made many commitments," said Layton, listing improvements to health care and opposition to weapons in space.

"My commitment to Canadians tonight is that we will hold him to it with every ounce of energy that we have," he said.

"We will see just how interested Mr. Martin finds the idea of proportional representation."

Layton has said he would demand a referendum on proportional representation, which would change the voting system to the benefit of smaller parties.

Though the NDP fell short of Layton's target for a record number of seats and his wife Olivia Chow lost in the Toronto riding of Trinity Spadina, Layton said the results give the NDP a clear mandate to pursue its agenda in Parliament.

"I think a lot of Canadians clearly wanted the NDP to play a central role," he said.

The NDP made significant gains in the popular vote and boosted its seat total last night despite a razor-thin victory for Layton in Toronto Danforth.

NDP spokesperson Donne Flanagan compared the new Parliament to the Liberal minorities of Lester Pearson in the 1960s which were maintained through support from the NDP caucus.

Despite the sudden influence the NDP now holds, the party fell short of its stated target of 43 seats with the latest figures showing a final seat total in the 20s.

Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent unseated the Liberals in Ottawa Centre as part of a strong NDP showing in Ontario.

NDP hopes of a breakthrough in Newfoundland and new seats in Nova Scotia were dashed as the party lost one of its four Atlantic seats.

Three sitting MPs easily won their seats. However the fourth NDP seat was lost in a close battle as Susan McAlpine-Gillis tried to hold on to the

Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, N.S., seat held by retiring NDP MP Wendy Lill.

New Democratic Party

"We've been very successful in altering the discourse in this country. We've been successful in getting the Conservatives and the Liberals to talk about homelessness, peace and security, the war in Iraq, child care, pharmacare, home care."

Brad Lavigne, party strategist