Kind and thoughtful Canadians might consider sending Jack Layton a sympathy card. His peculiar ability to speak in two directions and in two languages at the same time — to the East (particularly Quebec) and to the West — have landed him in several difficult political situations.
In 2010, the Conservatives sought to recognize the rising population in several provinces by introducing fairness for electoral representation. Ontario would get 30 more seats, Alberta five and B.C. seven.
Knowing that more seats for the “growth provinces” would proportionately reduce the voting power of the other provinces, the NDP proposed the bill be delayed, knowing full well that an election would effectively kill the proposed change.
The NDP’s concern was for Quebec, which already holds 75 constitutionally protected seats no matter how far its population falls! So much for Layton’s talk about fairness.
Layton went farther when he argued Quebec should be given more seats “because it is important to find a balance between adequate representation and ensuring the influence of a founding nation.”
On April 26, campaigning Layton said he was willing to open talks on the Canadian Constitution in an effort to get Quebec to sign the document once there was a “reasonable chance of success.” Everyone recalls the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional efforts but Layton, in overweening confidence, believes he can reconcile Quebec interests and feelings with those of the rest of Canada! He had better be ready to explain to his caucus — which has a Quebec majority — his inability to deliver the goods.
The NDP also introduced a bill that would have required that only fully bilingual judges be considered for future Supreme Court appointments. That would exclude probably most of the best legal minds in the West.
The NDP idea was designed solely to increase its popularity in Quebec. It passed in the House of Commons supported by the NDP, the Bloc, and the Liberals. Fortunately it was defeated in the Senate by the Conservatives who had just established a majority there.
Lastly, Layton has even proposed that Quebec language legislation be extended into areas of federal jurisdiction — far from the bilingualism that was intended to be restricted to federal institutions.
So if Layton’s words speak louder than his actions can you imagine the rancor that is likely to develop in his caucus as his promises collapse? He will need a sympathy card.