Monday, August 22, 2011

Now What?

I did not know Jack Layton personally so I can not comment of what sort of a person he was and I will leave it to others to heap praise on him this week.    The bigger question is now what for Federal politics?

We now have three major parties with interim leaders and leadership races to start in the next couple of years.   The Bloc looking at sometime in 2012 to choose a new leader.   The Liberals are going to wait till the late spring or early summer of 2013.  Meanwhile the NDP, who knows when the new leader will be selected.   This effectively means the three opposition parties are in a holding pattern for the time being.

Meanwhile, here are the questions I have coming out his death:

1) Who are the possible successors to Jack Layton?  It has to be someone that speaks fluent French and I suspect it has to be an MP from Quebec.   Effectively this means Thomas Mulcair.  The lack of a provincial NDP in Quebec will now come home to roost in the NDP as there are no serious candidates one could expect to come from there.   The NDP is BC, Manitoba and Saskatchewan all have strong potential leaders but without French, they are not going to go anywhere.   Frankly, either Mike Farnworth or John Horgan would be very interesting choices for national leader, but without the ability to speak French, there is no place for them to be leaders of the NDP in Ottawa.

The NDP does not have the luxury of waiting a long time to choose a new leader.  As the government in waiting, the party has the primary role in opposing the government and in laying out the plans for the next government of Canada.   The Liberals and Bloc can wait because they are not the government in waiting and their policies and positions are not relevant to anyone.  Without a new leader the NDP can not lay out the direction of the next government.

2) How does a new leader build a strong cohesive NDP caucus when most of them have almost no experience in parliament?   How will the new leader play in the west?   A populist might work well, but I am fairly certain that that is not going to be the next NDP leader.

The longer the NDP waits to choose a new leader, the more time there is for the Bloc and Liberals go after the NDP.   The choice of Nycole Turmel was not a bad person to choose to be interim leader, but the optics of having a former member of separatist parties leading the NDP is going to bad for the party.

3) How hard will the Bloc and Liberals try to tear down the house that Jack built?   No matter what they are saying publicly today, both parties see this as a god send and a chance to return to their "rightful roles" in parliament.

The Bloc needs to gain back all the people that voted for Jack Layton in the last election.   They will push the issue of the NDP being pro-Canada and not pro-Quebec over and over again.   If they wanted to play dirty, they would leak to the media all the NDP MPs that were once a member of the Bloc, the PQ or QS.   If they can force the NDP to have to define where they stand on the status of Quebec, they can make the case that they are the only party that has the interests of Quebec at heart.

The Liberals are likely to start up their dirt seeking machine and try to make NDP MPs look bad.   I suspect the offer to merge the two parties will come out in the spring of 2012 with the sort of sub text that says if the NDP are serious about defeating the Conservatives, there needs to be a single party as the opposition.

When parliament comes back from summer holidays and after a sombre tribute day to Jack Layton, the NDP will come under relentless attack by the Bloc and the Liberals.
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