"One may smile, and smile, and be a villain..."
- Hamlet Act I, scene V
In an election campaign so devoid of attention-grabbing events, Canadian mass media and new media pundits alike have had to work extra hard, digging to find an issue worthy of print.
The early bones the Liberals and NDP tried to get the public to chew on regarding the Harper Conservatives, namely the Bev Oda affair, the alleged cost overruns on the new F-35 fighter jets, and the ridiculous Contempt of Parliament rouse, all proved to be flavorless.
The Conservatives attempt to highlight the dangers of a Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition was initially effective, but has lost some steam since the radically socialist NDP leapfrogged the Liberals in some polls, which has become the latest tidbit for the hungry media to feed on.
Just when the CBC thought they didn't have anyone on the left to cheer for, here comes smilin' Jack Layton.
The NDP leader has been all over the television since the unexpected rise of his party. What is odd is the fact that Layton isn't new to the scene. He is already familiar, his ideas are already well-known.
But the upswing in polling numbers has given the left wing media licence to paint this as a swarm of voters moving to the NDP, which may not be the whole truth.
Federalist Quebec voters who have long looked at the Bloc Quebecois as their voice in Parliament while choosing to ignore the 'separatist' angle have decided to give the last federal party on the list a kick at the can. They have long memories and continue to reject the Adscam Liberals, and there's just not enough conservative Quebecers to boost Tory fortunes in la belle province. That leaves the NDP.
I believe it is a case of Quebec voters moving away from the Bloc, and not so much moving to the New Democrats.
The NDP rise could lose much meaning if they don't experience the same lift in Ontario. Winning that province is the key to winning the government. While the socialists are enjoying the latest numbers, their popularity is in areas (outside of Quebec) that aren't really surprising: Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Given the evidence that many who plan to vote for the NDP aren't overly familiar with the policies of the party, it leads one to believe that the party's rise has more to do with Jack Layton's charisma and voter fatigue with the Conservatives and Liberals than it has to do with any great neo-socialist awakening by the Canadian public.
The party has promised an astounding $69 Billion - Billion! - in new spending during this campaign, without any real plan of how to pay the bill. They have promised to raise taxes, including the corporate tax rate. While at first blush that may sound appealing to some voters (damn evil corporations!) the truth is it would lead to less investment, less cash flow, and less jobs.
They promised a Cap and Trade policy, which is a prime example of the unworkability of their platform. C&P would virtually kill the oil and natural gas industries in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which would dry up a huge portion of the federal government's supply of funds - the very same funds Layton would need to pay for his promises.
As someone wrote in a Letter to the Editor in the Calgary Sun:
"Seriously? Jack Layton? Do my fellow Canadians understand what his promised corporate tax hike to 19.5% really means to our fragile economic recovery? It means borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. It means in the short term he will generate enough money to pay for all these fancy social programs he has dangled before our eyes but in the long term? In the long term it means job layoffs. It means large deficits we cannot afford to take on...We can’t afford to buy now, pay later. The U.S. tried that and they are still digging themselves out."
Canada found itself living under a Liberal/NDP coalition before. We suffer from some aftershocks to this day.
Given the fact that Canada is still climbing out from under the global economic meltdown - the damage kept to a minimum by the Harper Conservatives - Canadians would be well advised to remember that it is the steak, not the sizzle, the matters.
An NDP-powered government? Just ask Ontario about the Bob Rae years.