I will happily cast my vote for Jack Layton on Monday (I live in his riding), because he is one of the most intelligent voices in Canadian politics. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know it from this election campaign.
I don't even recognize the Layton that I appreciate when he woodenly repeats the meaningless mantra "There is a third option in this election - the NDP."
Actually, Jack, no. That's an option for opposition, not for government. As a long-time NDP supporter, I want to see my party in a place of actual power, not just the same comfortable, self-righteous good-old-days of opposition politics. Of the many possible scenarios by the end of Monday night, the only foreseeable outcome that brings the NDP real power to effect major change in this country is a minority Liberal-NDP governing alliance. That's what I want to see emerge from this debacle election.
And to get that, voters must vote strategically, depending on the race in their riding.
Over the last 18 months, we've had a chance to see the kind of positive social policies and spending that can come from Liberal-NDP power-sharing during this special time in Canada of huge budget surpluses.
Instead of milking this moment for every last golden drop of social good possible, Layton decided to pre-empt his governing opportunity and force an election. Then he aimed his ad campaign almost exclusively against the Liberals. Why? It feels like he'd rather see the Conservatives come to power than admit that his supporters would be best served by strategically supporting the Liberals in close-call Tory-Liberal races. To me, that is playing political games with the progressive future of our country.
Layton has played right into Stephen Harper's hand, and - surprise, surprise - look what's happened.
Like a lot of people in this country, I'm sick about the rise of Stephen Harper as a so-called "time for a change" candidate. There is such a thing as a change for the worse. In Ontario, we've been there, done that with the Harris government, and it was an unbearable disaster.
It is not time for a change, as the Tories and, sadly, the NDP would have us believe. Actually, our last Parliament was the best-case scenario for social-justice-seeking Canadians. This country, with its well-balanced, growing economy, low unemployment (the lowest in 30 years at the end of 2005) and federal budget surpluses, is the envy of the world.
Paul Martin is nobody's ideal prime minister, but the vilification directed toward his record and performance by the Conservatives, the NDP and the Tory-dominated private media is completely unbalanced. Historically, on almost every level, this is among the best of times in Canada. Yes, of course we have huge social problems that need to be addressed. But government coffers are full, and that's thanks to Paul Martin.
To know the meaning of corrupt government, we must look outside of our blessed country to get perspective. Hello - we're not even on the map. No matter who is in power, government attracts criminals. Watchdogs are needed. All hail the Auditor General, who is doing her job. And as scandals go, the sponsorship affair is well past its expiration date. After a huge process, Gomery has cleared Martin. The constant ethical slurs are empty political spew that ultimately serves only to turn voters off politics.
Nobody's perfect in life or politics. Even though Layton didn't play this election well, he and his team are still the country's brightest political lights. A solid NDP contingent in Parliament is our best hope for putting the federal surplus to work for Canadian social programs, from health, Kyoto, the city agenda and decent funding for First Nations peoples to post-secondary education, child- and senior-care, etc.
In Toronto we're lucky. In all Toronto ridings it appears to be safe to vote NDP all the way without inadvertently electing a Conservative. (See complete riding-by-riding information on page 16). On a national level, it's never been more important to be informed about your riding before you go to the polls. There are probably fewer than 30 ridings across the country where the NDP has a chance of being elected. In those ridings, vote NDP, not red and not Green.
There are also many ridings where the Liberals are sure to win or where the Tories are sure to win. In these cases, use your vote to raise the NDP's popular vote and increase its credibility and political clout. In potentially close Liberal-Tory contests, like many of those in the 905 area where the NDP has no chance, vote Liberal.