Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dedicating NDP campaign to Layton a disservice

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"WIN one for the Gipper." With these immortal words, legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne successfully inspired his football team to dramatically turn around a half-time deficit and score a second-half upset.

The incident is dramatized in a Hollywood movie, Knute Rockne All American, with Pat O'Brien playing the title role. His star halfback, George Gipp, played by Ronald Reagan, on his deathbed had urged his coach to use these words as inspiration if ever his team were in a rough spot and needed an extra emotional lift.

It would appear Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has decided to take a leaf from Rockne's book and use it in a political context. He says the forthcoming provincial election campaign will be dedicated to the memory of Jack Layton.

There has been, of course, what some may regard as an inordinate amount of media coverage dedicated to the passing of the former leader of the NDP. There is no question Jack Layton's untimely death, coupled with his amazing accomplishment in the last federal election, was deserving of widespread sympathy and also the universal recognition, which it demonstrably received.

But the slogan "Win one for Jack" in a provincial election is a bit much.

Selinger says Layton dedicated a federal campaign to my former friend and colleague, former Saskatchewan premier Allan Blakeney.

That may be so. But I never heard Blakeney's name mentioned in this context during the entire election period. If it was something internal to the party, it is of no consequence and entirely harmless. But the announcement by Selinger amid the current ongoing media adulation of Layton indicates Selinger is hoping that some of this atmosphere will rub off to the benefit of the Manitoba party.

If this is what Selinger has in mind, he is badly mistaken. Layton's death should and will not have any effect whatsoever on the Manitoba election. To link the NDP election campaign with the death of Jack Layton is to denigrate rather than dignify his passing.

The election campaign in Manitoba will be a political war fought among the NDP, the Conservatives and the Liberals. In this battle we can expect to see the traditional name-calling, misrepresentations and even some serious debates on important issues.

I predict it will ultimately come down to a single-issue election. Ultimately, voters will zero in on the question of whether the new Hydro transmission line should be built on the east side or the west side of Lake Winnipeg.

On this issue most, if not all, expert opinion says the east side route will save hundreds of millions of dollars. That is something the voters will have no difficulty in understanding.

The fact that the Conservatives and the Liberals are opposing the NDP has nothing to do with public feelings about Jack Layton. The fact that the NDP is hoping to use his death as the theme of their election campaign is a disservice to the public.


Sidney Green is a Winnipeg lawyer

and former NDP cabinet minister.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2011 A15

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