Layton eyes reopening Constitution

-- Hoping to snag more voters from Quebec -- Business leaders wary of NDP's surge


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MONTREAL -- In a push for more votes in Quebec, NDP Leader Jack Layton is talking about reopening the Constitution to bring the province into the fold.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/04/2011 (4303 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MONTREAL — In a push for more votes in Quebec, NDP Leader Jack Layton is talking about reopening the Constitution to bring the province into the fold.

He’s also resurrected an old sovereigntist term to promote his federalist stand.

Layton told reporters in Montreal the first hurdle in bringing Quebec into Canada’s Constitution is to replace the government of Stephen Harper.

Postmedia REUTERS NDP Leader Jack Layton

“Because the Harper government arrived with all this great promise and was going to recognize the nation of Quebec and so on and so forth, it turned out all to be empty words,” Layton said.

It’s a problem that can’t go on forever, he said.

But Harper told reporters in Asbestos, Que., on Tuesday he’s travelled the country for five years, and bringing Quebec into the fold doesn’t appear to be a priority for Canadians.

“They do not want an unstable government that is going to spend time arguing about the Constitution,” he said. “We went through that for 20 years.”

Instead, he said, economic recovery, jobs, affordable services and keeping taxes down are the priorities of Canadians.

Layton said creating the “winning conditions” for constitutional change starts by replacing the Harper government, respecting the people of Quebec and taking steps in the House of Commons to show Quebecers there’s an appreciation of key issues.

The term “winning conditions” has been used by Layton before in this campaign, and before that it was a quote attributed to sovereigntist Lucien Bouchard.

The former Quebec premier and Mulroney cabinet minister used the term after the narrow referendum loss in 1995, saying the winning conditions for a new referendum would be economic recovery and no deficit.

Layton, whose prospects seem to be increasing in Quebec with every opinion poll, said his comments aren’t about appeasing anyone.

“We have this historic problem that we have a quarter of our population, the people of Quebec, who have never signed onto the Constitution,” he said.

He told reporters the party would start by showing Quebecers there’s an appreciation of some of the key issues.

While Quebec’s absence from the Constitution is a significant gap in Canada’s political history, Layton said it’s not an immediate issue in the way that getting a job, finding a family doctor and retirement security for seniors are.

Layton also said he would like to see the principles of Quebec’s language law, which protects the French language, applied to federally regulated workplaces.

He said it makes no sense laws in a provincially regulated bank protect the language rights of French-speaking workers, but those working across the street at a federally regulated work site don’t have the same rights.

Meanwhile, Layton isn’t just catching the attention of political junkies with his party’s unexpected surge in the polls.

He’s also showing up on the radar of Canadian business leaders and investors, some of whom are wary the NDP’s policies could hurt their bottom lines and slow the economic recovery.

Most economists weren’t expecting the election campaign to have much impact on the economy or financial markets.

But in many cases, their forecasts were based on the prospect of the Conservatives or Liberals forming government by winning the most seats.

Now analysts are being forced to at least consider the possibility of the NDP surpassing the Liberals to become the official Opposition.

That would put Layton on track to become prime minister of a coalition government if the Conservatives win a minority and the opposition parties team up to topple the Tories.

An NDP official Opposition wouldn’t be the most “market-friendly” scenario, BMO Capital deputy chief economist Douglas Porter said Tuesday in a research note in which he cautioned clients to “hang onto your hats.”

“For the first four weeks of the campaign, the market has been all but ignoring the election. It’s basically sleepwalked through it,” Porter said in an interview.

“I suspect the market might take a little more notice with some of these latest polls.”

The head of the organization representing Canadian manufacturers said the political uncertainty surrounding a coalition government could hurt Canada’s reputation as an attractive place to invest.

“What happens after the election in terms of the next budget, (and) the economic-policy agenda going forward?” asked Jayson Myers, chief executive of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. “For a lot of businesses, there is some cause for concern.”


— The Canadian Press / Postmedia News

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