On Sunday, I lamented that this election campaign was still lacking a defining storyline. Given the polls today, it's safe to say we finally have it.
The NDP surge is one of those surprises that maybe shouldn't be too surprising. After all, there have been thousands of attack ads aired against Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper over the past year, and apart from a few cameo appearances in coalition commercials, no one has dared lay a finger on Layton. He's been able to get his message out unopposed - with Jack being more popular and a better politician than either Harper or Ignatieff, it shouldn't be surprising that voters have responded to it.
On top of this, the NDP are big enough to be taken seriously, but not a big enough threat for power to be taken too seriously. Yeah, their platform is full of holes, but they'll never be in a position to implement it, so all that really matters to voters is that Jack wants to give more money to seniors, hire more doctors, and cut the cost of home heating fuels. Let the Prime Minister worry about how to pay for it.
Given the sudden reality that the NDP are serious players in this election, it's only fair to start taking them seriously. There's now a real possibility the NDP will come out of this election with 60-80 seats, with close to half of them coming from Quebec. So what kind of "table de cuisine" issues will these NDP MPs be fighting for?
Well, for starters:
1. In the debates, Layton promised to open the constitution to create "winning conditions" for federalism in Quebec. It's unclear what this means...so maybe it's time someone asked him, eh?
2. We've had several stories about quasi-separatist NDP candidates in Quebec, and there has been some switching back-on-forth between the two camps. If the NDP start electing place holder candidates across Quebec, we can likely expect that a few of them might hold extreme views. Now might be the time to take a serious look at just what kind of NDP team Jack will be bringing to Ottawa - maybe Mario Dumont can offer advice on how this might turn out.
4. Jack Layton supports extending Bill 101 to federal jurisdictions.
Now, some of this isn't any worse than what the other parties have done. After all, it wasn't all that long ago that the co-founder of the BQ was Paul Martin's Quebec lieutenant. And, despite some of the jabs above, I actually do think it's a good thing for Canada if the NDP can finally squash the temporary ad hoc rainbow coalition known as the Bloc Quebecois.
But it's only fair that voters in Quebec, and in the rest of Canada, know where the party stands before casting their vote for them. A little clarity from Jack would be appreciated.