The call went out over the wires this morning – Jack Layton was going to meet with the Prime Minister – photo op at ten to three, press conference at four. Was this a sign that Harper was going to do the same song and dance, dog-and-pony show as last year, when he met the other party leaders for the sole purpose of making it look like he was besieged when he went to Her Excellency in order to break his fixed election date law?
Well, not exactly. This year, it’s Jack Layton who is planning to meet with the other party leaders in his bid to Make Parliament Work™. He went in to the Langevin Block to talk about both the Suaad Hagi Mohamud situation – he had spoken to her on Sunday – and to reiterate just what his party had put forward in the House in the spring when it came to pensions, EI, and protecting Canadians against the evils of credit card companies.
So when Layton appeared before the assembled press gallery, he said that he and Harper had spoken about issues like job creation, climate change and the upcoming Copenhagen conference, and the fact that infrastructure funds weren’t flowing. Apparently Harper disagreed on that last part, to which Layton dutifully reminded him that those funds came from the Building Canada Fund three years ago – not the stimulus funds from the current budget.
But it wasn’t until he opened the floor to questions that he revealed that Harper gave no indication that he would be “changing direction” on any of the issues that Layton outlined, or that he even comprehended the scope of the crisis in which we find ourselves. And every time a reporter asked what it would take for Layton to support the government, or whether he would vote with the Liberals in a hypothetical non-confidence motion, Layton danced around the question.
Layton said that while the Liberals like to talk about elections – to the point of obsession even – that his party was trying to get the government to change direction. In fact, he operates on the assumption that if you press governments long and hard enough, that they’ll change. And yet, he walked away from this meeting without any sense of optimism that it was likely to happen.
Was Harper trying to sound him out for which issues he could gain support on? Not really. How did it compare to the meeting last summer? Apparently Harper was much clearer last year that he wanted an election. But hey, they’re keeping the lines of communication open, and that’s important when you’re trying to Make Parliament Work™.
In other words, this whole exercise was Layton’s contribution to the Making Parliament Work™ narrative before what looks like an inevitable autumn election.