Letters from Layton

Michael Johansen
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When a busy member of Parliament, the leader of a party, takes time to write letters to someone who isn't in his riding - or rather, when someone in his office takes the time to mail photocopied propaganda to thousands of people on a list - it would be a waste of paper to throw them away unread, no matter how pointless they seem.
They can be ignored for some time, but a growing pile of unopened envelopes from Jack Layton (MP/dÉputÉ Toronto-Danforth, Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada, Chef, Nouveau parti dÉmocratique au Canada) becomes annoying after a while.
The paper begins to look like good fire starter, but before the letters can be destroyed, curiosity must be satisfied.
How can there be absolutely nothing worthwhile in messages from the party that is supposed to be the foremost protector of Canadian social democracy?
Once the envelopes are open, it's difficult to tell which came first - they all seem equally out of date. However, the oldest is probably the one that makes a spirited attack against Liberal MPs (like Labrador's Todd Russell, one presumes) for propping up the minority Conservative government.
"Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador promised to stand up for your interests, but so far the only person they've stood up for is Stephen Harper."
Strong words, but not Jack Layton's, despite what it says on the envelope. The letter, a pamphlet that features a photo-illustration of Grit leader Michael Ignatieff nuzzling the prime minister, is from an MP from far-away Windsor-Tecumseh - as is another letter that stridently boasts how the New Democrats are "BATTLING JOB LOSSES," although the only jobs mentioned are those in the lobster and shrimp fisheries, and the pamphlet doesn't say what the party is doing about them.
It's clear the main purpose of all these missives that are masquerading as letters from Jack Layton is not to share information - unless you consider the number of times the Liberals voted in favour of Conservative motions ("Answer: 79!") to be useful for comparing how many times the New Democrats will now use their "rubber stamp" to support the shaky minority government.
The party is not giving out information, but gathering it, asking for opinions that the NDP should already know:
Do you want an MP who understands you and stands up for your interests? (No! Why should I be different from anyone else in the country?)
Should Ottawa end "outrageous" bank fees? (Of course not - what would the poor banks do without all my money?)
Should seniors' incomes be improved? (On the contrary! We should all starve in the freezing dark.)
One question is repeated every time: are Jack Layton's New Democrats on the right track for people like you? Well, since you ask, Jack: no, they're not. They're too urban-centric (despite your party's support for Harper's anti-gun-control legislation) and they keep missing valuable opportunities to further the cause of electoral reform - don't you know the NDP could win big with proportional representation?
Since you ask, Jack, the right track for the NDP can hardly be the same one the Liberals were on a few short weeks ago (right behind the Conservative train, pushing it even faster towards Harper's destination).
That track only leads to horrible wreckage - unless you think Ignatieff has been doing nothing but good for his political career since becoming Liberal leader.
The right track for the NDP should be the one that leads the party to a greater understanding of Canada as a whole, not just a few self-serving questions.
An understanding that would help the party wrest the government out of the hands of those who will use it to impoverish Canada's economy, society, culture and sovereignty.
The opposition should oppose.
The right track is also the one that will stop the party from sending out any more pointless pamphlets.

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Organizations: NDP, New Democratic Party of Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa

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