Driving to and from my daughter's school this morning, I noticed a certain pattern among the various election posters: only one party in my area has posters not only of their local candidate but their party leader as well. Any guesses? Yes, Jack Layton. Only the NDP seem to have a leader that is seen as an asset to a local candidate. I guess Duceppe for the Bloc might also count in this category, as I have seen his face (does he remind anyone else of a ferret or is that just me?), but it is clear that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals (especially) consider their own leaders to be assets in my part of town and perhaps beyond.
Lots of hysteria the past few days that the NDP is now second in the polls, that this might either facilitate a Conservative majority or an NDP-led coalition with the Liberals. Funny, I don't remember Layton being challenged about a possible coalition, just Ignatieff. So, Layton could perhaps lead such a coalition without appearing to be two-faced.
I would not mind so much an NDP-led government, except I was persuaded by one op-ed that Layton's promises to re-open the Constitution question here would be a BAD idea. Canadians really do not want to tamper with the status quo, given the past disasters. Quebeckers probably do not want to think much about it, since it is the only issue that can really raise the spectre of a successful referendum. I guess a coalition government might put the brakes on such a promise. That and the reality of governing. Such an easy promise to make when no one thinks you have a chance.
And that really is the key to the swing of the week--that the biggest constraint the NDP has had was the perception it was a wasted vote. Now, perceptions have changed--the NDP can possibly be more than a largely irrelevant third party. This has produced the same kind of cascade (to a much lesser degree) than one sees in revolutions (East Europe in 1989, Arab Spring this year) where suddenly people's preferences are revealed--that conditions have changed so that what they want, or more precisely, what they do not want (the Liberals) becomes clearer to themselves and everyone else.
The "NDP is no longer a 3rd party" genie will be tough for Iggy and Harper to stuff back in the bottle. Iggy certainly would like to try, but I am not sure whether Harper will gain or benefit from the NDP's rise. Suddenly, a Canadian election has become, dare I say it, interesting! Next think you know, dictators in the Arab world will lose their positions.