the election campaign, New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton tirelessly
crisscrossed the country, urging voters to give him the support he needed to
play a central role in the next Parliament.
As the early returns came in Monday, it appeared Canadians had given Layton
even more than he asked for ’Äî the balance of power in Parliament, ensuring him
a great deal of clout over Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority Liberal
And so when he took to the podium later that evening to address his
supporters, Layton told them how the NDP would hold Martin's feet to the fire to
deliver on his promises.
But then he went further, hinting that the Liberals would have to pay a hefty
price in return for his support.
Echoing his recent threat to make a national referendum on a controversial
new voting system the Number 1 condition for his support of a Liberal minority,
Layton said, "We will see how interesting Paul Martin finds the idea of
That's a strange condition from a leader who campaigned on the urgent needs
of Canadians because it would put the long-term interests of the New Democratic
Party ahead of the people's immediate needs.
As it turns out, the degree of control Layton thought he had evaporated when
all the votes were counted.
The final tally showed the NDP to be one seat short of the number needed for
Layton to sell the Liberals a guarantee that he would prop them up in power in
exchange for a commitment to pursue some kind of proportional representation.
Still, the NDP, which raised its seats by only five, will play a crucial role
in the next Parliament. It's the only natural policy ally for the Liberals.
Although Canadians would undoubtedly have taken some comfort from the
guaranteed stability of a Liberal-NDP deal, they are probably better off with
Layton in a strong and uncompromised position to hold Martin to account.
The public should have every confidence that they will see a new deal for
cities, major improvements in health care, a significant investment in
affordable housing, a national child care program, and progress on global
warming in the next Parliament. That's because logic and necessity both now
dictate that Layton channel his energies into pushing Martin hard on all of
Yesterday, Layton showed he clearly understood both the potential and the
limitations of his situation. Instead of making self-serving demands, he pledged
to play a "constructive, positive and innovative" role in working with
Martin and the other parties in ensuring a productive Parliament.