Jack Layton proved me right, which is always a good feeling. But the true test of how right he proved me to be will be seen on May 2, and no sooner.
Back on April 2, I wrote a post about how Jack Layton was proving himself in this campaign more than any other before it, and that the message he was putting down, Canadians were picking up. Hard. Back then I wrote “Slowly but surely, he is losing that Used-Car Salesman vibe that has plagued him throughout his career. In 2011, he wants to sell you a vision for a better Canada – and people seem to be listening.” I also highlighted a slight problem: the persistent problem of “reduced rally numbers.”
And then – a slight problem. Those ‘reduced rally numbers’ turned into a much larger funk heading into the Leader’s Debate, where Layton failed to stand out, aside from #hashtagfail, which is not something to be remembered for. And while he did his best to motor around the country at lightening pace, it was always more of a hobble, as that cane has become his most dependable political prop to date – only it’s not a prop, like David Miller’s broom. He really needs it.
I had a slight moment or regret in publishing that piece, as Jack and the Dippers took a hit almost immediately after I hit ‘Publish.’ I was worried I had gone out on a limb for the NDP, and they had screwed me.
These days, articles are popping up on the CBC, The Hill Times, and others that are calling the recent surge in NDP support across the country a game changer. The CBC claims this has the power to dynamically change the nature of the campaign in the remaining days to May 2. These are only claims mind you, which is why I say the truest test of how right he proved me will come on Election Day, but now they’re talking about Jack as…well, not as Prime Minister, that would be premature – but as Leader of the Official Opposition.
Even Scott Stinson in the National Post couldn’t help but comment on the phenomenon, casting Jack Layton as the sole secret to the NDP’s recent success. A National Post article in support of Jack Layton?
So what happened?
Jack hit his stride, that’s what. And the surge in his support is coming right across the board: the NDP are seeing their numbers rise in Quebec especially, but also Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, and others. Having dropped the more militant and controversial of his ‘socialist’ campaign pillars, Jack is now appealing to a broader base of middle class Canadians who see the value – and the sense – in looking at growing wealth inequality, encouraging agricultural productivity, and negotiating our way out of Afghanistan.
But I choose my words carefully when I say ‘Jack is now appealing to a broader base of middle class Canadians,’ because it is Jack – and Jack alone, it seems – who is making the impression. As Stinson argued, “Mr. Layton, himself, has accomplished more than any of the other leaders thus far in the campaign. It’s kind of remarkable.”
The problem? Firstly, these are just polls. And while polls are important, they don’t always translate into seats. So this should temper any thoughts of Jack and Olivia moving into Stornoway, let alone 24 Sussex Drive any time soon. And lastly, Jack can’t keep doing this forever. The day will come when he no longer has it in him to run these exhausting campaigns, and he must forfeit the reigns of power to another individual.
But how much will popularity for Jack take away from popularity for the NDP? Will that support for the Dippers remain after the Layton era is over?