Inside Politics

Layton's double-pointed sword in Quebec

Jack Layton is promising to fight hard for more seats in Quebec.

Currently the NDP have one seat, in Outremont.

But they've picked up a star candidate in Cree politician and activist Romeo Saganash.

Saganash is very well known in Quebec, and he's running in the province's far north in Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou.

Layton's message in Montreal is focused on two enemies: The Liberal Party and the Bloc Quebecois. It's sort of an assumption for Layton that no Quebecer really wants to vote Conservative.

But Layton's pitch suggests you don't want to vote Liberal either, because on a few key issues (Afghanistan and the environment) Liberals haven't opposed Conservative initiatives.

But the most interesting aspect of Layton's message here is focused on the Bloc Quebecois.

The Bloc holds the majority of seats in Quebec - and has for years.

Today, the NDP released a new French language ad, featuring a hamster running on a hamster wheel

"Politics is going nowhere in Ottawa, the ad says. "It is time that changes. Let's Work together."

Of course, the ad is broad enough to be seen to offer a pox on all their houses. But really, the message is somewhat more sophisticated than that.

Layton explained his message a little more directly in a speech. "And so I'm here today to ask Quebecers to work together with me, not just to keep Mr. Harper in check, but to replace him as prime minister . . .

To send strong progressive Quebec voices to Ottawa, not in the opposition, but to advance your interests in cabinet."

Now that last bit is directed straight at the Bloc.

The party can never hope to form government because it only runs candidates in Quebec.

And then there's the fact that in the great coalition debates of '04, '08 and '11, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe himself ruled out ever being inside a federal government. Support would be one thing, he said, but governing Canada? Never.

So if Harper has to be replaced, and Duceppe would never be in government, who's left to sit at that cabinet table Layton mentioned, and how would that work anyway?

Food for thought.
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