Layton supports vacationing Quebec candidate
Joanna Smith Ottawa Bureau
WINNIPEG—New Democrat Leader Jack Layton is standing behind a Quebec candidate who spent the past few weeks working at an Ottawa bar before heading down to Las Vegas for a mid-campaign vacation.
“If we had fixed election dates, then families of candidates could make their plans,” Layton told reporters in Winnipeg on Wednesday when asked to explain the surprising whereabouts of the NDP hopeful in Berthier—Maskinongé.
Candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau is reportedly on a trip to the city of casinos and cocktails she booked before the election was called, after having spent the first few weeks of the campaign working full-time at the student bar at Carleton University in Ottawa.
That is three hours away from the rural riding north of Montreal where the NDP put her forward as the one to defeat Bloc Quebecois incumbent Guy André, once a long shot but now at least within the realm of possibility since the so-called orange wave has catapulted her party into first place in the province.
Layton defended her choice to keep her vacation plans and full-time job far away from the riding by saying it is hard for candidates—especially ordinary people with ordinary jobs – to plan for an election.
Layton noted Conservative Leader Stephen Harper defied his own fixed-date election law to go to the polls in 2008.
“Well, you know a lot of families make plans and if we had fixed election dates that were being properly honoured — we know Stephen Harper broke that law himself — then it would be a lot easier for candidates to be able to make plans to participate,” Layton said when asked how he could stand by Brosseau when he has gone after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for missing so many votes in the House of Commons.
“Our party puts forward exceptional and interesting Canadians from all walks of life and all backgrounds to be in the House of Commons and we’re very proud of that,” Layton said. “Every party is going to have some challenges in this area, but we think that our team is ready to work hard and demonstrates that each and every day as they’re campaigning across this country.”
Brosseau is not the only NDP candidate to have chosen leisure over shaking hands and knocking doors in this campaign.
Their candidate Jim Koppens in Ajax—Pickering was in the Caribbean earlier in the campaign and Layton defended him then too, although blaming the lack of fixed-date elections for scheduling difficulties.
It remains unknown whether the NDP can translate its favourable poll numbers in Quebec into seats in the province, where the victory of deputy leader Thomas Mulcair in the former Liberal fortress of Outremont in a 2007 by-election was viewed as a major breakthrough for the party.
But as the numbers grow the roster of candidates is coming under increased scrutiny and although Layton has been talking up star candidates like former Liberal MP Francoise Boivin in Gatineau and Cree activist Romeo Saganash in the northern Quebec riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, he has had difficulty naming more than a handful of Quebec candidates when asked.
Layton was asked to explain how Quebec voters can have confidence in NDP candidates when many of them might have their faces on lawn signs but are not seen on the ground.
“We are proud of our team. We have a team from all backgrounds, all professions,” Layton said. “We have a rainbow of candidates and it’s normal sometimes when we have an election that was not necessarily foreseen that some will have problems to arrange their schedules. It’s not that complicated.”
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted by Brent Fullard at 2:12 PM