Only days ago, Jack Layton’s NDP remained in a technical coalition with Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals in Canada. Yet after the coalition was dissolved by Ignatieff supporting the Conservative budget, Layton has lashed out at the Liberals in a new round of radio ads:
“Some things just don’t change,” intones a woman in one ad.
“Another Conservative budget rubber stamped by another Liberal leader. It’s official: Michael Ignatieff failed his first big test as Liberal leader. He’s thrown his lot in with Stephen Harper.”
The ad portrays NDP Leader Jack Layton as the only political leader who can be trusted to look out for average families.
“Jack Layton’s the only leader strong enough to stand up to Harper.”
It’s not that surprising. Clearly the NDP were preparing for Ignatieff to dissolve the coalition which he had never had much love for, and the NDP’s long-term enemy, despite its rhetoric against Stephen Harper, is the Liberals. The NDP aims to supplant the Liberals as the main centre-left party in Canadian politics, and is aiming to tar Ignatieff with the same “weak-leader” brush as Stephane Dion.
In other news, this week’s budget also shows a shift for Harper’s Conservatives away from wooing Quebec voters. After their 2008 election strategy of winning seats in Quebec failed, and the role of the BQ in the stillborn coalition drove a wedge between the Conservatives and swinging Quebec voters, Stephen Harper has shifted his focus.
The problem for the Conservatives is that there don’t seem to be enough seats for them to win to form a majority. They already hold a vast majority in the Prairies states and a large majority in British Columbia. Outside of Toronto, they dominate Ontario, and hold a decent number of seats in the three Maritime provinces. With this impressive result, they only won 143 seats, twelve short of a majority of 155. So where can they win the remaining twelve?
There are only three options: Toronto, Quebec, and Newfoundland. While the Conservatives have room to grow in Newfoundland, the province is too small to have a significant impact. At the 2008 election, the Conservatives made a large push to win seats in the more conservative Quebec seats held by the left-leaning Bloc Quebecois. However, they failed dismally, remaining stuck on 10 Quebec seats. Since then Harper’s relationship with the second-largest province has fallen apart, with much of his ire at the possible coalition being directed at the legitimacy of the Bloc to engage in national politics.
This all comes back to the budget, where it appears that Harper has chosen to strip money out of the two provinces who have bucked the Conservative-voting trend, with the budget being opposed in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador for alleged cuts to funding to those provinces. In contrast, Harper is aiming at the so-called “905” region around Toronto, named for the telephone area code for the outer suburbs of Toronto. The Toronto metropolitan area, despite the decline of the Liberals, remains almost totally represented by Liberals. There is a 35-seat block which jumps out at you when you look at the electoral map of southern Ontario. Within this block, only two NDP seats and one Conservative seat buck the trend. If only 12 of these 32 Liberal MPs can be toppled, Stephen Harper is on track for that long-sought-after majority.
In other news: The Globe and Mail today includes an interesting email discussion between a Liberal member and NDP member, dissecting the late lamented coalition.