The Reading Room in the Centre Block was sweltering. Inadequate air conditioning and too many bodies created a sticky situation for all.
Nycole Turmel, newly elected MP for Hull-Aylmer, introduced Layton (mostly in French), saying that 4.5 million Canadians voted for change. And then to great applause, Layton arrived.
Reading once again from his teleprompter, Layton started with a quip about having so many New Democrats in the room that they’re afraid someone is going to call the fire marshal. And with that, he gave what was largely a reworked campaign speech – in French and then in English. He spoke about the combination of experience and energy in his caucus and how the party has MPs from each region of the country, including 59 from Quebec and 40 women (a record number).
He said that the NDP is the “largest, most united” opposition party in recent history, isn’t working to reward Conservative insiders and has broad support across the country. He made an immediate attack on Harper about rewarding failed candidates with Senate appointments and spoke of how Canadians could count on him to defend their interests.
A short while later, Layton met the media in the foyer. Without any preamble, he took questions on the Middle East peace process (rather than discuss firm borders, let’s use our expertise to bring people together); the Afghan mission (bring the troops home, let’s use our expertise to bring people together); sanctions against Syria (we’ve been calling for those for a while); the new auditor general (so far there’s been no consultation on Sheila Fraser’s replacement); Afghan detainee documents (we need a public inquiry); the NDP's position on a future referendum in Quebec, given the party’s Sherbrooke Declaration (using the Supreme Court decision on separation as the baseline but wants to create the “winning conditions for Canada in Quebec” – continuing to use that politically loaded phrase); the per-vote subsidy (concerned that if it is killed, big money will have more influence in politics); shielding his new MPs from the media (they’re bringing them out step by step); and how they plan to bring a different tone to the House of Commons (we need everyone to stop heckling during questions and answers).