Jack Layton must have been pleased with the good weather this morning at the Admiral's Green Clubhouse. That's where he made a campaign speech today on his second stop in the province since the campaign started. Layton was surrounded by local candidates Ryan Cleary, Jack Harris, Randy Dawe, provincial NDP leader Lorraine Michael, and supporters holding signs that read "We will defeat Harper", and "United with Layton."
Layton's message was much the same as his debate points - that the NDP is the team to trust and replace Harper; that there will be no more tax breaks for the Exxons, like Harper gave to that company to drill in the tar sands; more jobs in Canada as opposed to exporting them overseas; and that he will improve health care by funding the hiring of more doctors and health professionals.
Asked by a reporter if he thinks the NDP will surpass the record 43 seats attained by Ed Broadbent in the 1988 election. Layton replied that "that is axiomatic, when you're hoping to be Prime Minister." Layton has some reason to be optimistic. His debate performance has gotten good reviews, and his party's rating is almost on par with the Liberals. He pointed the finger several times at Stephane Dion in the leaders debate Thursday night, and reiterated today that Dion has not been an effective Opposition leader against Stephen Harper.
The arrival of the NDP frontman was also welcome news for St. John's South-Mount Pearl candidate Ryan Cleary, as well. Cleary is hoping to increase his support enough to catch, then pass current riding leader Siobhan Coady. They're both well known candidates and the campaign will be very interesting to watch on election night. Merv Wiseman is running for the Conversatives, and at this point has the greatest challenge on his hands.
Not having met him before, with only some familiarity of his background as editor of The Independent, and through reading a range of opinions here in the blogosphere, Mr. Cleary obliged this blogger with a few minutes of his time. No recordings or scribbles taken, just a quick chat. When asked why he is running, he described his desire to help people who are struggling, impoverished and needed help. He described himself as being a strong advocate for the province.
It's hard to really know someone in just a few minutes but to use a Brian Tobin-type pronouncement phrase, I will say this: Cleary may indeed be a good fit for the NDP team. He seems to have a social conscience and is drawn to the NDP's angle of championing for equality. Cleary did say he held other common beliefs with the NDP stance, such as gay marriage, and being pro-choice. While he is representing the party now, he has been criticized for colorful remarks about the NDP in the past. Whether he gave into a writer's temptation to add some flair to his writings, or just told it as he saw it, that's for him to respond to.
In person, this Indy-P was approachable, mild mannered and seemed to possess sincere caring qualities. That particular soft skill is one which helps candidates get elected. But first he has to close the polling gap with Siobhan Coady. Then in nine days time, we'll see if the NDP leader's visit today will have boosted his chances and have a positive effect for him, Harris and the other NDP candidates in the province.