Very interesting news just breaking over the wire:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEI’m told the meeting is at Harper’s request. I have no information as yet of a meeting being requested of or accepted by Michael Ignatieff or Gilles Duceppe.
AUGUST 25, 2009
LAYTON MEETS WITH PM IN ADVANCE OF FALL SESSION
OTTAWA – New Democrat Leader Jack Layton will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Langevin Block to discuss the fall session of Parliament. Layton plans to speak to reporters immediately following the meeting.
2:50 PM-Photo-Op, Layton enters Langevin Block 80 Wellington St. Ottawa, ON
4:00 PM - Press Conference with Jack Layton, National Press Theatre 150 Wellington St.
My speculation? Stephen Harper obviously wants to play let’s make a deal to keep my government alive.
Where I Harper, I’d settle Jack in, butter him up with questions about his new grandchild, and then offer him a deal on employment insurance. Probably pretty close to what the Liberals were asking for. And I’d tell Jack that this is a great deal for him, because a) The NDP isn’t really in a financial position to wage an election this fall, b) The polls aren’t favourable for him either, and c) The deal would let the NDP claim victory on EI by getting the deal the Liberals couldn’t d) He can spin it to marginalize the Liberals at NDP expense.
If I were Harper, why would I offer Layton a deal? Well, I know that those Ipsos numbers are an outlier, I know a fall election could be very bad for me and at some point, the Liberals could finally decide to take the leap. So I don’t want an election this fall. I also know that, at this point, this is likely my last election as leader unless I get a majority, and that’s not in the cards right now.
And I know that, if I’m going to make a deal with anyone, I want it to be with the NDP. A deal with the Liberals is fine, but no fringe benefits. A deal with the separatist BQ is unpalatable. But a strong NDP saps strength from the Liberals, which is to my benefit, so a deal with the NDP is my first choice.
So a deal makes all kinds of sense for Stephen Harper, and for the Conservatives. But it takes two to tango. The more important question is does a deal make sense for Jack Layton and the NDP?
Strategically, you can argue it does. An election this fall wouldn’t be ideal for the NDP. It would stretch their finances significantly, and the polling shows they’d drop seats, particularly in Ontario, which would only be partially be offset by gains elsewhere. And were I Jack Layton, I’d be wondering how many more elections I have left in me. I’ve made steady gains to this point, but I’m still short of Broadbent levels, and I may never have another chance like I did last fall. People like Mulcair are waiting in the wings. I’d be wondering if I really want to roll the dice this fall, so a deal may be attractive.
However, were I Layton, I’d also know it would need to be a helluva deal if I’m going to be able to sell it to my supporters, and convince them I’m not just doing what I’ve been accusing the Liberals of doing for some time: caving and propping up a Conservative government that is hostile to so many of our deeply held principles. A deal takes away the “xxx consecutive confidence votes” and “only real opposition” memes we’ve been carefully cultivating and lets the Liberals go on the offense, and the only hope to counter that without looking totally morally bankrupt and risking polarizing the electorate between the LPC and CPC is to be able to claim you’ve extracted significant and meaningful concessions, from the Conservatives, concessions deal the Liberals could never have gotten.
Is such a deal likely to be on offer for Layton? Were I Harper, it would be, for the reasons already outlined. Were I Jack, I’d want more than a deal on EI. And even then, I’d be wary.
But we’ll see in a few hours, I suppose. Could be Harper just wants some help on his hockey book. Or maybe Harper really does want an election, and he's running a replay of last fall. Unlikely, however. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers