--> Getting It Right: Layton and the Soldiers

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Layton and the Soldiers

A June 20th poll, published in the Angus Reid Global Monitor, places the NDP in an interesting position.

In the survey, 30% of Canadians responded they would be voting, or would consider voting, NDP in the next election.

Remember that the NDP, under the shaky leadership of Jack Layton, managed to pull out only 17% of the vote in last year’s January election.

This result provided them with 29 seats in the minority parliament, well below expectations in a campaign in which they had hoped to be the middle position for Canadians tired of the Liberals but scared of the Tories.

Eighteen months later, hungry to defray internal mutterings over his leadership and eyeing the faltering antics of Stephane Dion, Layton and his key advisors have clearly decided that the only real wedge issue sticky enough to solidify these numbers for the upcoming by-elections is the divisive battle in Afghanistan.

We seen over 60 young Canadians die in this far-away land fighting a culture so archaic that most rational people find it hard to believe that Taliban “values” can exist in a modern, global world.

Let’s be honest: hacking off limbs, stoning women and ruling by male tribal lineage pretty much went out of favour in the mid-1400s. Ditto sending pre-pubescent boys into battle. And we’re not good with torture. And public executions in soccer stadiums aren’t really our thing either.

Regardless of one’s political stripe in Canada, certain items like rights for women, support for minorities, legalized trade unions and universal education are pretty much given.

But the NDP are showing that they are happy to abandon these hard-fought principles when it comes to others in the world, in a play for more seats right here at home.

Buoyed by snapshot poll numbers, Layton came trotting out yesterday with his trumped up news conference on the heels of the deaths of six Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

We can all disagree about the war in Afghanistan. We can debate whether or not it is appropriate for us to send our young people to fight half the world away. We live in Canada – we have this privilege.

What is distasteful about Layton’s approach is his willingness to play politics with dead boys.

At the same time that grieving mothers were first hearing the news of the deaths, Layton was telling the nation that these courageous volunteers died in vain - that freeing a nation from cultural slavery isn’t worth it.

In politics, timing is everything.

And by his choice of timing, Layton has demonstrated he doesn’t have the tact to be leader of anything more than a ragtag fringe party, regardless of where the poll numbers put him last week.