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Keith Beardsley

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It Is Time for the NDP to Step Up Their Game

Posted: 05/24/11 09:50 PM ET

Layton came, spoke to the assembled NDP caucus and then departed. Other than it being the first NDP caucus meeting since the election, there was little else of substance for the assembled media and watching public.

It was as if we were back in pre-May 2 days listening to an NDP stump speech. Layton spoke about fixing Ottawa, yet offered no solutions. He spoke about doing things a better way, yet reverted to type and spent most of his time attacking Prime Minister Harper.

Layton promised that Quebecers could count on the NDP and that his party will drive the agenda in Parliament. But that remains empty election rhetoric unless he shows us exactly how he plans to do that.

This is the second time that the NDP has held a media event (the other being on culture) at which they offered little of substance either to Canadians or for the media that they invited to attend. The NDP will have to step up their game if they want to be taken seriously by both the press and the general public. They are the official Opposition, the government-in-waiting. As such they need to have some substance to what they do.

For instance, Layton could have suggested ways to remove some of the partisanship from the House committee process. Instead, his speech offered nothing of substance that would improve the way committees work.

Michael Chong, a Conservative MP, had suggested ways to improve the daily question period. Most Canadians would agree that this is one part of the political process in Ottawa that needs fixing. The caucus speech could have been an opportunity for Layton to take control of this issue and suggest practical ways to improve the way question period functions. At the very least he could have supported Chong's efforts for reforming it.

To give Layton some credit, he did say at a press conference later that NDP MPs would refrain from heckling in question period. Unfortunately, he chose not to endorse Chong's other suggestions. Layton could also have offered to meet with the prime minister on a regular basis to find ways to defuse some of the partisanship of the House. He chose not to do so.

With the government preparing to bring in a budget in a weeks time, Layton had an opportunity to suggest that he and the prime minister meet to see if some of his previous budget suggestions might be of more interest to Harper now that the NDP are the official Opposition. Instead Layton was more interested in attacking Harper. Some how that doesn't strike me as doing things differently or improving on the way Ottawa works.

Instead, we were fed a diet of election rhetoric. Canadians will be excused if they are disappointed because they have heard all of these attack lines before. If Layton is so determined to do things differently, he missed a golden opportunity to do so.


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