05/26/2011 08:18 EDT | Updated 07/24/2011 05:12 EDT

It Is Time for the NDP to Step Up Their Game

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


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.