Jack Layton’s state funeral honored a gentleman and, as likely, excited in New Democrats and Liberals a fresh interest in trench politics—in beating one another in order to secure a better position in the race for political power.
To defeat the Harper Conservatives in the next federal election, either the Liberal Party or the New Democratic Party must collapse or the two must merge. The second option will not come into play until after they’ve tried to destroy one another. The recovery of the center-left in Canada, therefore, will first be dominated by internal strife. Don’t expect to hear anything very new or telling about the Conservatives. Expect to hear a lot of fresh nasty things about socialist illusions and liberal hubris.
For the next six weeks, Question Period in Ottawa, Bob Rae’s wit, and Thomas Mulcair’s temperament will count for nothing. Rather, the Ontario provincial election on October 6th could be fatal to the national Liberal Party.
If Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal Government survives, Liberals in Ottawa will be able to put their humiliating national defeat in May behind them. They were done in, they will insist, by a perfect storm, a freakish occurrence. “We can come back as we are: after all, Ontario is our political home, McGuinty’s balanced style is ours as well, and, besides, they NDP didn’t move out of third place.” That message could get the Liberals through all the way to another federal election.
However, the Liberals will be in a terrible place nationally if the Conservatives led by Tim Hudak win and, as likely, if the New Democrat’s leader Andrea Horvath increases their popular vote. The Ontario Government is the Liberal Party’s last real claim to power in the one region they must dominate in order to beat the Conservatives nationally. Being out of office in Ontario and with far fewer seats than the NDP in the other key battlegrounds—British Columbia and Quebec—would leave them looking like spoilers; amateurs who can’t face facts.
Natural governing parties, like the Liberal Party of Canada, are not naturally optimistic.
Imagine Bob Rae going around the country for the next year and a half talking up Liberal prospects without a power base in Ontario. (Of course, that possibility will stir the hearts of every New Democrat with any free time to campaign in Ontario over the next six weeks.)
Dalton McGuinty and the federal Liberals will campaign with a passion to save Ontario from having too many Conservative governments. However, New Democrats will be content to settle for just one less Liberal one for now.