Former NDP insider to Justin Trudeau: “You sir, are no Jack Layton”

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Justin Trudeau continues to be slammed by New Democrats for invoking the memory of the late Jack Layton.

On Monday, following four federal byelections, Trudeau took a shot at the current NDP leader for running a negative campaign.

"The [NDP] is no longer the hopeful, optimistic party of Jack Layton, it is the negative, divisive party of Thomas Mulcair," he said at a Bourassa victory party, according to the Canadian Press.

"It is the Liberal party that proved tonight that hope is stronger than fear, that positive politics can and should win out over negative."

"Hope stronger than fear" is, of course an excerpt from Layton's final letter to Canadians.

On Tuesday, Mulcair suggested that the comments were in poor taste.

"That Justin Trudeau would use Jack Layton’s dying words as a political tool says everything that needs to be said about Justin Trudeau’s judgment and character," Mulcair told reporters on Tuesday, according to the Globe and Mail.

And, on Wednesday, Brad Lavigne — the former National Director of the NDP — penned a scathing open-letter, in the Globe, to Trudeau saying that Layton was a man of "substance" who "never shied away from pointing out flaws in his opponent’s ideas or highlighting the hypocrisy of their positions."

Mr. Trudeau’s swing-and-a-miss on by-election night is yet another example of how little he has learned on the job so far and embarrasses himself with a shallow attempt to co-opt a great leader’s words and turn them into meaningless jargon.

If Justin Trudeau wants to run the next election on who will best carry on Mr. Layton’s legacy, my guess is that New Democrats will more than welcome that. Is Thomas Mulcair a different person than Jack Layton? Unquestionably. Does he share Mr. Layton’s passion for a fairer, more prosperous Canada where no one is left behind? Like no other federal leader does.

So while progressives set their sights on replacing Stephen Harper in 2015 with the strong, experienced leadership of Thomas Mulcair, a word of caution to Justin Trudeau:

I knew Jack Layton. Jack Layton was a friend of mine. And you sir, are no Jack Layton.

Trudeau's comment and Lavigne's comeback encapsulates the brewing battle between the NDP and Liberals.

If you followed the the recent byelction campaigns, you would have seen some nasty campaigning by both parties. In the Toronto Centre byelction, for example,the NDP tried to link Chrystia Freeland to Margaret Thatcher's ideologies while the Grits sent out a flyer with an unflattering picture of Mulcair and the caption: "Too Angry."

[ Related: Tories retain two seats but suffer big loss in voter support on byelection Monday ]

"Mulcair and Trudeau are on a collision course," political communications consultant Gerry Nicholls told Yahoo Canada News.

"It’s inevitable. Both men, after all, are fighting over the same voter turf. If Trudeau is to grow he will do it at the expense of the NDP. Mulcair knows this, he also knows he can’t beat Trudeau in a popularity contest. So he has no choice but to take out a sharpened meat cleaver and hack away at the Trudeau brand.

Nicholls believes that a royal rumble on the left will ultimately help the Conservatives.

"It...reinforces their own anti-Trudeau attacks," he said.

"The only danger for them is that if Trudeau does implode and if his voters drift to the NDP, that could give Mulcair the strength he needs to topple the Tories."

[ More Politics: Rob Ford on ongoing controversy: 'I'm loving this' ]

Interestingly, it wasn't too long ago that the media and even some Liberal and NDP insiders were talking about some sort of party cooperation.

Two MPs — the NDP's Nathan Cullen and Liberal Joyce Murray — even ran under a cooperation platform in their respective leadership bids claiming that a split progressive vote would mean the Tories would stay in power for years and years to come.

Today, cooperation seems like a far-fetched pipe dream.

And the Conservatives — they can sit back and enjoy the show.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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