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Thursday, January 09, 2003

Number five

Jack Layton will get my vote as soon as he and Bev Meslo are left on the ballot. Don't get me wrong... I've met him, and I like him. Personable, if a little slick. But a couple of things undermine my confidence in him as the best choice.

First of all, he's way out on the left. Not the alienating, unpleasant left where Meslo is coming from, but far enough. There are some in the party who think that's a good thing, but I'm not among them. I think Paul Martin will be pulling the Liberal party to the right, absorbing the remaining Tories who hadn't noticed until then that they have no leader. I think even the Canadian Alliance could lose members and voters to a Martin-led Liberal government, leaving the hard-core Reform Party types pushing Stephen Harper further out right, as well. All of that will leave the centre-left wide open for the NDP, and we'd be missing an opportunity if we don't try to occupy some of that space. I'm going to go on about that further as I continue the countdown.

Second, he's very urban. His site has a number of policy pages, but nothing in them gives me the impression he knows anything about the ways so many people in Canada make their livings. There's nothing about mining or fishing. The only allusion to oil and gas is how it connects to Kyoto. Sustainable farming through urban-rural partnerships seems to be the only solution he has for the rural prairies, but that seems inadequate in the face of global grain subsidy wars, and while I'm completely in favour of genetically modified food labelling, GMOs only seem to be a problem for Jack when city people eat them. And I think Jack would be very hard-presses to explain "stumpage". In short, I'm not convinced he understands how the country outside of GTA operates.

And finally, but related, he's a city councillor. I'd prefer to have a leader who is already a sitting Member of Parliament. In Bill's words, again: He's sincere, he really wants to lead the party, but running single-issue campaigns while waiting for a favourable byelection won't move the party forward.

Some months ago, I was lobbied by a Layton supporter at a party. I stopped him by saying that like all good Albertans of any political stripe, I have a basic mistrust of anything that comes from Toronto. I was joking then, but really, most of what I don't like about Layton reflects the things I don't like about Toronto. Don't get me wrong... there are many things I do like about Toronto. Give me several days and I'm sure I could name a few. But like Toronto, Layton has no understanding of the world outside, and no concept of the possibility that he might require that understanding to lead a national party. In his favour, given enough time as leader, that understanding will be foisted upon him by force. I'm not sure the NDP has the time to wait.

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