This past week Jack Layton has repeated one of his favourite mantras. No, it's not his line about kitchen tables (can anyone imagine the 24 Sussex Drive dining room if he ever got in?). It's his other favourite, the one in which he tells us with a straight face one of the most hilarious jokes in politics: move over Liberals, the NDP is the real opposition.
Ponder that for a moment. Layton, who leads a party with around 13% of the seats in the House, is maintaining that he presents more opposition to the Conservative government than a party that holds more than 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. Let's see how Jack could get it so wrong.
Layton asserts that the Liberals have given up their role as an opposition because they have approved the Conservative budget. He equates this with a coalition. Excuse me, but that's quite a logical leap to make. When Layton went about forming his coalition with Dion, he signed a document expressing his commitment to forming government with the Liberals. Nothing close has happened with the Liberals and the Conservatives. Jack Layton is clearly playing fast and loose with political terms.
As for the Liberals approving the Conservative budget, this does not show they are not worthy of being Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Rather, it shows that unlike the NDP, Liberals do not make a mindless opposition their modus operandi. What Layton seems to be advocating as proper opposition is an opposition to any of the government's initiative, with no regard for any particulars. Layton, in a roundabout way, is saying that opposition consists of opposing any initiative, simply because of which party originated it: the Conservatives.
Layton is trying to pull off a strategic coup against the Liberals. He knows that they are not going to pull the plug on this government until legislation is presented that they cannot accept and until their party is election-ready. In this way, Layton hopes he can keep maintaining he is the real opposition if the public accepts his definition of opposition.
The Liberals are understanding opposition to be what it is meant to be. They know that opposition consists of improving legislation that the government presents if possible, and not allowing the legislation if this is impossible. They are not being pulled into the childish game that Layton wants to play, a sort of name-calling if you will.
The Liberals are showing they have the mettle of an opposition, making a key change to the Conservative budget for example. In fact, they are wisely using their power as the Opposition. They hold quite a lot of sway over Harper at the moment because the Prime Minister wishes to seem non-partisan and co-operative in light of the current crisis and the change down south. He therefore will not flatly refuse the Liberals, and if he does, the Liberals can effectively force an election, showing to the world his inability to grasp the serious nature of the current times.
From the Liberals position, not only are they being a real opposition, as opposed to Layton's mindless naysaying, they are using their role as the Opposition to more greatly influence the law-making of this country. They are an Opposition that has understood the power they hold, and how to best use it, something that Layton is either unwilling or willingly unable to understand.
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