Does the NDP Die with Layton?

Layton pauses at a press conference on July 25, 2011.

As you might’ve heard, Jack Layton, leader of the NDP, passed away this morning at 4:45am. And as sad as I am for his family, I can’t help but to feel that the rest of the Country is fucked and has a lot more to mourn than the passing of a loved one. With Layton’s passing, we’ve lost probably the only chance we currently have at having an effective opposition and counterweight to the money hungry hacks in the Prime Minister’s Office.

When Harper bulled his way to a majority government on may 2nd, it was mostly at the expense of the Liberals. Voters had lost faith in the Liberals because of the sponsorship scandal and because they had no viable leadership prospect. So when a lot of Liberal supporters cast their ballots o nMay 2nd, they were thinking of their pocket books and their gas tanks. They wanted someone running their country who was actually in control of his party, and it didn’t hurt that that someone would give them the tax breaks they needed to keep up their conspicuous consumption in a down-turn economy.

Of course, even though enough Liberal supporters swung right to give Harper the majority he was looking for, many more more showed a social conscience and swung left, giving the NDP in the official opposition seat. Even the Bloc lost ground to Jack, leaving Quebec an orange province — with the New Democrats taking 59 of the 75 seats.

Canadian 2011 Election Results

It was a momentous occasion and milestone in Canadian electoral politics. Never before had the NDP formed the official opposition at the federal level. And the timing couldn’t have been better, because what more would you want out of the opposition when a bunch of right-wing oil lackeys are at the helm? I mean, the Conservatives might’ve had a majority and carte-blanche to sell the nation off to private interests, but if you’re going to have a watchdog barking up their tree, it mind as well be someone from the labour-left.

At the same time, though, the NDP’s rise to prominence kind of signalled the rise of bi-partisan politics in this country. The more centrist Liberals who’d been a major force for the last half century had been relegated to insignificance, and now the voters’ only two real viable choices were left or right. Suddenly, there was much less room (and need) for compromise in Canadian politics, and only one of the two viable options was likely to ever attract the financial support and backing of private interests.

But if any of the current stakeholders could recognize the problem with that and had the experience and connections to help restore party-diversity in the Canadian electoral ecosystem, it was probably Jack. Something about the man told me that, as much as he revelled in his party’s recent rise, he recognized that to effectively oppose the Conservatives, voters needed a viable centrist option. Now, that could’ve meant a lot of things, from a revamped NDP to a merger with the Liberal party,  but Jack was likely too experienced and committed to his beliefs to ignore this striking reality.

Of course, now with his passing, the NDP just might suffer from the same power vacuum that crippled the Liberals. Even though he stepped down as leader, there’s no longer any chance of him returning, nor a figurehead for party hopefuls to turn or appeal to for guidance of support. If something unexpected and unforeseen doesn’t give soon, we could very well end up spending the next decade selling our freedoms and principles off to the carbon barons just to get by and put food on the table.

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