Layton basks in new Quebec poll numbers
NDP leader Jack Layton waves to the crowd as he leaves Le Cercle restaurant during a campaign stop in Quebec City, April 18, 2011. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
QUEBEC CITY - Jack’s jumping in the polls, but is it a flash?
The latest polls show NDP Leader Jack Layton’s soft cell to Quebecers is paying dividends - opening a locked door that could see the party expand its seat count beyond one Montreal riding after years of watching from a peephole.
Layton has surged past the sponsorship-tainted Liberals and Stephen Harper’s stalled Conservative bus, according to recent prognostications that also show the NDP ahead of the Grits in other parts of Canada.
Layton has so far not rocked any boats as he appeals to soft nationalists and disgruntled Liberals looking for an alternative to corruption, sovereignty and intimidation.
And he immediately dove into shark-infested waters Monday, accusing Harper and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe of stoking separatist fears.
“I’m discouraged to hear ... the fires of discord being once again fanned when it comes to the nature of our country,” Layton said in response to Harper’s latest rallying cry that only a majority Conservative government can lasso the separatist bogeyman.
“Let’s not use an election to try to whip up division between Canadians and Quebecers. Let’s use an election to talk about solutions.”
His direct message to Quebecers was also aimed at Duceppe’s latest manifesto that a strong Bloc presence in Ottawa and the election of a Parti Quebecois provincial government could extract unimaginable riches from the federation - treasures the other parties could never deliver, he says.
Layton bills himself a “rassambleur” - one who brings people together, a politician who understands Quebecers and their sensitivity to language and culture.
“What we are seeing Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Harper do is drive wedges,” he said.
He even used his visit to tread carefully around the thorny issue of private health clinics - which are flourishing in Quebec faster than other provinces - by committing to enforce an outdated Canada Health Act, legislation the Fraser Institute attacked Monday as a barrier to modernizing the health care system.
Layton was in Quebec selling his municipalities agenda, promising to shower cities and towns with $3.95 billion in fiscal 2011-12 on infrastructure, clean water and transit.
He met the mayor of Quebec City and attended a pair of rallies - one here and another in Val D’Or in northern Quebec that attracted about 100 supporters.