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Layton: Toronto a "one-party state"

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:45 p.m. December 20, 2005]

NDP Leader Jack Layton surrounded by Toronto NDP candidates. 

OTTAWA  — NDP Leader Jack Layton made his best and most humourous attempt yet in the election to counter Liberal scare tactics.
 
In the last election and so far in this election, the Liberals have - with good effect -- urged NDP voters to vote Liberal in an effort to prevent Conservative Leader Stephen Harper from becoming prime minister. 

Campaigning in Toronto Tuesday, Layton said people in Toronto who are afraid of the Conservatives winning seats don't have to vote Liberal to stop them.

Why? 

Because the Conservatives can't win any seats in the 22 ridings in the city, according to Layton. 

"Friends, in Toronto, you don't have to worry about electing Conservatives," he said. "It's not going to happen. A Conservative in Toronto has about as much chance of getting elected as a jay-walker on the 401.

"The Liberal scare tactic doesn't work in Toronto. It's like being afraid of sharks in Lake Ontario."

Layton pointed out that Conservative candidates on average finished 15,000 votes behind the Liberals in Toronto's 22 ridings in the last election. 

Layton is the only NDP or conservative party MP elected in Toronto since the 1993 federal election. 

"Toronto is more of a one-party state than Alberta," he said. 

He also used accused much of the Toronto Liberal caucus of being do-nothing MPs. 

"Liberals of are a Toronto version of a Seinfeld show. A caucus about nothing that does nothing."

The NDP could win three or four more seats in downtown Toronto, including campaigns featuring Layton's wife, Olivia Chow, in Trinity --Spadina, Peggy Nash in Parkdale - High Park, and Marilyn Churley in Beaches - East York. 

Attention Campaign lobbyists

Last week, PoliticsWatch wrote about lobbyists participating in the election campaigns of the Liberals and the Conservatives.  

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but on Monday Michael Nelson, the federal registrar of lobbyists, sent out a reminder to all lobbyists about their activities during the federal election campaign. 

"Lobbyists should take all necessary measures to avoid any real or apparent conflict of interest involving themselves and their clients, as well as with public office holders which they may meet, help or otherwise communicate with as they participate in political activities," the e-mail read.

"In particular, lobbyists should ensure that they do not put public office holders in a position where they could themselves be in breach of their own code of conduct.

"Consequently, lobbyists should establish to which extent their political
activities and their lobbying activities are compatible and determine
whether one or the other needs to be reassessed during the election
campaign. In this context, should lobbyists decide to cease their lobbying
activities and de-register during the campaign, this Office will ensure that
such termination and subsequent registration requests are processed
diligently."

Last week, Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch told PoliticsWatch that he believed the lobbyist code of conduct prohibits lobbyists from working on election campaigns.

"The lobbyist code of conduct says you can't put any public office holder in a conflict of interest," Conacher said. 

Nelson's reminder this week, however, seems to suggest that it is okay for lobbyists to work on a campaign, as long as they deregister from lobbying activities for the duration of the campaign. 

"It's a bizarre document because he seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth," said Conacher after seeing the e-mail.

"When you decide to help out on the campaign you're still a lobbyist and you're admitting that working on a campaign is a conflict of interest by deregistering."

While Nelson issued the reminder to lobbyists, he did not issue an interpretation bulletin on the registrar's Web site. 

Conacher said he planned to show the e-mail to his lawyers because Nelson's reminder could be viewed as an interpretation of the lobbyists code of conduct. 

Democracy Watch is currently awaiting how the federal government will deal with eight of its complaints returned to the government after a federal court judge ruled that former ethics counsellor Howard Wilson was biased. 

Those complaints, which Wilson dismissed, included a complaint about nine lobbyists that worked on the leadership campaigns of Liberals Paul Martin, John Manley, Sheila Copps, Allan Rock and the Canadian Alliance's Grant Hill.

"The lobbyists we complained about did not deregister," Conacher said.

But Conacher said Nelson's reminder to lobbyists this week appears to support his group's view that lobbyists should deregister before working on campaigns.

"He's saying that everything Democracy Watch has been saying since the code came into effect in 1997 is true," Conacher said. "Lobbyists working on campaigns are in violation of the lobbyists code of conduct very likely in most situations."

The justice department wants Nelson to deal with the complaints, but Democracy Watch is opposed, saying that his office is structurally biased because it is part of the Industry department and not independent. 

Conacher said he would prefer a provincial ethics commissioner deal with the eight complaints. 

Leaders Debate Jumps the Shark

The ratings are in and they're not good.

The English-language debate received 1.4 million viewers down from 2.1 million in 2004. And the French-language debate was even worse with 671,000 viewers down from 1.2 million. 

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe wants to change the debate format and he could be right.

Perhaps the Paul, Stephen, Jack and Gilles Show has jumped the shark. 

If the party leaders were a network sitcom, then they would have to pull out an old trick, like bringing in a cute toddler -- ala little Olivia who magically appeared on the Cosby show when Rudy started growing up -- to help revive their ratings and keep their show on the air for a few more years

The next TV Guide listing  for the leaders debate could read something like this: 

8:00 PM Party Leaders Debate: The Next Generation: "An orphaned four-year-old arrives at the leaders' debate and soon has everything turned upside-down. She's adorable, impish, and can very nearly out-mug Jack. She and the four party leaders soon develop a special bond -- in both official languages. She is particularly adept at exhausting the debate's moderator played by special guest star Avril Lavigne." 

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