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Jack Layton's New Democratic Party strategy on the federal budget? Beats me!

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Federal NDP leader Jack Layton

It beats me why a centre-left party with the ability to squeeze even a few modest concessions out of a dangerous far-right minority government that sits on the cusp of a majority would contribute to an effort to bring that government down just now.

Yeah, Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget is far from perfect, but it's not so imperfect that it makes sense to defeat it in the House of Commons and give Prime Minister Stephen Harper the perfect opportunity to hold an election in which he stands an excellent chance of finally forming the majority he craves.

Indeed, wouldn't later always be better than right now in a situation like this? After all, later you can stand up and take credit for the few things the Conservatives did right, and let them wear their transgressions.

Later, this government's obvious contempt of, and for, Parliament, not to mention the optics surrounding the iffy characters it rewards, would all have had a chance to ripen. So, when the writ finally dropped, things might not actually have been any better from the NDP's perspective, but it's unlikely they would have been worse.

In desperation, the party could always claim it had prevented an election that Canadians didn't want -- which, as a matter of literal fact, would have been the truth.

But, apparently not...

Now, the Globe and Mail claims NDP supporters would have bolted if they party had propped up the Conservatives one more time. Maybe. But this seems like a stretch -- after all, you've got to be determined and optimistic to be a committed social democrat at all in this country.

The Toronto Star seemed to think it was because a junior Tory minister was rude. Well, maybe they came up with that one just because they had to come up with something by deadline.

Still, watching NDP Leader Jack Layton on the television yesterday, one couldn't shake the feeling he was a man who understood all this but felt thoroughly boxed in by the trap laid by the Conservatives -- who have big money, a cynical little war too new to be unpopular, and the advantage of a population that seems fed up enough with elections to accept the stability of a majority over policies that actually make sense from a middle-class perspective.

As for the hope Canadians will be disgusted by the Conservatives' disgusting behaviour -- contempt of Parliament, lyin' ministers, elderly insiders with sex-worker brides to be, rules that only apply to the rest of us and more -- well, hope springs eternal.

Softened up by neo-con media cynicism, hateful Republican-style 30-second attack ads and the on-line Tory Rage Machine, subjected to voter-suppression measures also borrowed from the Republicans, large numbers of Canadian electors have been conditioned to believe that one party is as bad as another. So why bother voting for anybody? Or, if you do, why not for the guys with the slickest advertising corporate money can buy?

Using a budget vote to defeat a government that's well positioned to win a majority makes some limited sense from the perspective Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, because he must know this is pretty much his last chance to be prime minister. If he loses this one, he's probably outta there anyway, so why not roll the dice?

Indeed, the Liberals may even hope to pick up a few seats from frightened NDP voters, especially in Ontario's 905 Belt around Toronto, desperate to do what they can to stave off a Conservative majority.

As for the Bloc, well, they're separatists, aren't they? Not only is their position apparently secure with Quebec voters, from their perspective, so much the better if a majority Conservative government under a neo-con radical like Harper manages to wreck the rest of the country.

And if Flaherty doesn't deliver money Quebeckers feel they've been promised, well, that works from the BQ point of view too.

But where's the benefit for the NDP? So they can say they lost on a question of high principle? Please!

If you think the budget that seems about to get this government defeated is bad, wait till you see the one the Harper Conservatives have in store if they manage to grasp a majority! Get ready for the "Shock Doctrine," because that's what you're going to get.

You'll also get election-financing laws that will guarantee wealthy foreign corporations can buy any future election they please, and probably a mountain or something similarly large named after Mike Harris.

Oh well, pride goeth destruction, and all that. However, as a good friend of mine often says, "maybe it's just me!"

Here's hoping blogger Murray Dobbin got it right, and "if this budget is the basis for the Conservatives' election platform then they look very vulnerable."

Here's hoping the Good Book and I both got it completely wrong and, this time, pride goeth before coalition!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary. Tomorrow, barring something really outrageous in Alberta, a long game the NDP could play and win.

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