Being on vacation for the past number of days, I have up to now totally ignored the whole situation with the federal NDP with Jack Layton’s surprising announcement last week that he was stepping aside as leader temporarily to focus on treatment for a new, unspecified cancer.
Wow, what a sad situation he is in. From the looks of him at the press conference Layton is in bad shape, looking thin and with a raspy voice. He claims he will be back in Parliament in September and a lot of media people were repeating this statement as if it was gospel, but I think this was nothing more than Layton trying his best to put the most optimistic spin possible on what looks like a grim battle ahead. I remember the very public cancer battles that people like Peter Jennings had fought, or for that matter Roger Ebert, and they were out of the public eye for several months. Of course, in Jennings’ case, he died.
I think Layton is going to have a tough time beating back this cancer and making in back in time for the opening of Parliament, given what we have seen before.
During that press conference Layton tabbed Nycole Turmel, one of the newly-elected Quebec MPs and the party’s caucus chair, to be interim leader while he undergoes treatment.
I’m not impressed with the media coverage of this whole situation so far. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement there was a lot of focus on the “political implications” of this situation on the NDP and on Parliament, when people really should have been concerned about Mr. Layton’s well-being. Then the media people started treating the latest Layton cancer revelations like it was Watergate, and they were asking why there wasn’t any more specific information about his condition and about what type of new cancer he had — all these “public has a right to know” type of questions. Never mind that the people at home had seen enough with their own eyes already about the state of Layton’s health, based on what they saw at the press conference last week.
Then came the onslaught against Turmel, with the media calling her a “rookie MP” and therefore unqualified to be leader. That was the tone of the questions of her in the interviews — a “who do you think you are” type of attitude from the usual press people. Ahem, if I recall correctly, when Jack Layton was first elected NDP leader, not only was he not a rookie MP — he wasn’t an MP at all!
I guess I was willing to give Turmel the benefit of the doubt — at least until this week.
Did you hear about this? It turns out Turmel used to be a card-carrying member of the Bloc Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire! That’s right — the current interim Leader of the Opposition is a separatist supporter!
Anyway, the federal NDP really does have egg on its face over this latest news. This is not going to play well in most of the country. But it just goes to show how much the NDP have co-opted these former left-leaners who used to be Bloc supporters and got them to change over to their side.
Now the rumors are flying that Turmel is going to be turfed, or at least forced to resign. Some newspapers are already running pieces calling for her resignation. So far, though, she is hanging in.
Anyway, it seems pretty clear that Layton’s return cannot come soon enough for the NDP in Ottawa. They are a shambles right now, there is no other way to describe it.