Corporate taxes are not on Jack Layton’s agenda

Jack Layton made his first public comments since the Friday meeting with the Prime Minister. I watched the interview, but I decided to re-watch on CTV’s video site because the media read seemed a bit off from my "take". It appeared from this interview that initial reactions to Friday’s meeting were in error, YES Layton had raised corporate taxes, in fact "a third" of the forty minute meeting was devoted to this topic. This revelation brought the "Layton draws strong line on budget" headline in the Globe and Mail.

Before I put up the text of key portions of the interview, some context. At the end of this meeting, we heard nothing but mutual praise, healthy discussion, productive, blah, blah, blah. On Saturday, we started hearing more pushback language from the Conservatives, rejecting the home heating tax proposal, complaining about the cost of Layton’s proposals. At the same time we see anecedotal evidence that this Friday footsie fest was causing some backlash amongst the rank and file. I use social media, plenty of negative commentary on Layton’s facebook page as well as non-partisan jabs on twitter- we can dismiss as irrelevant, but I’ll bet the farm NDP headquarters were getting the same reaction in a wider sense. So that’s the backdrop heading into today’s comments from Layton, so one would expect a slightly "firmer" tone from him, given the Conservatives are playing hardball and Layton is out on a dangerous political ledge. Of those two facts I concede as givens, if people want to quibble with that underpinning, that’s their perogative because I don’t have "evidence", just a sense based on some indications.

Alright, so let’s look at "line in the sand" Layton. Here is the corporate tax portion:


"You know that’s a non starter for the PM, that’s end of conversation. He is not giving up anything that has to do with corporate tax cuts, you know that, so why don’t you just say it doesn’t look like this is going anywhere?"


"Well, because we’re going to look at the whole budget all together. But, he knows very well our position on corporate taxes is clear, in fact he said so right in the meeting"


"We also hear from people around the PM that your list is way to costly, way to high a pricetag on it and they are fighting to control a burgeoning deficit"


"Well they’re just not telling the true there, you can’t trust the PM and his people on this sort of thing. In fact our proposals are very reasonable, modest, practical and doable"

Where is the line in the sand on corporate taxes? I mean they discussed, Layton said Harper was "puzzled by the Liberals", he acknowledged how consistent the NDP have been over the years, but I don’t see anywhere, in this entire interview where Layton said corporate taxes are make or break. IN FACT, we get the "whole budget" consideration, in response to the "what’s the point?" question by Oliver. Does that sound like taxes are make or break, or a man who has this other laundry list and is looking for some concessions? I don’t see any departure here? We also see Layton disputing the concern about cost, trying to frame his wish list- not corporate taxes- as reasonable and "modest". In other words, Layton is selling his plan as something the government can afford. Layton even goes so far as to argue the government deficit will be lower than forecast.

Then we have this enlightening exchange:


"Is it wise Mr. Layton politically for you to be going to the PM, offering a deal to save them defeat on their budget when you know very well that there is no group of Canadians as fiercely opposed to everything the PM and his party represent?"


"Well we of course we take a very practical view of this, get the right thing done and do what we said we would do when so many Canadians voted for us… I’ll give you an example, when we forced the Conservatives to consider extending EI during the height of the recession, when jobs were at a premium and people were not able to find work, we got a lot of support. Mr Ignatieff said "time’s up Mr. Harper" and we said wait a minute, a billion dollars…if the Conservatives would agree to our proposal there then we would keep the government going to get that done."

Oliver brings up the point of blowback, and Layton returns with practicality, then volunteers the EI climbdown as proof, even says "we would keep the government going". Sorry, but where is the "strong line", sounds more like someone trying to find a deal he can swallow, give me something I can hang my hat on and it’s on.

You can watch the entire interview here. What I see is someone walking a tightrope, reacting to the Conservatives strong bargaining position, but still leaving the door open. One will note, no mention of corporate taxes as make or break, Layton moves to seniors, doctors, as what he needs to support. His plea to Canadians are within that context. 

Four weeks to go… 

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.

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