Andrea Horwath has been fairly overt about borrowing from Jack Layton’s playbook.
Mostly, that’s involved steering the NDP away from its traditional turf and loosening ties with organized labour in hope of making it palatable to a broader swath of voters – something the provincial leader has done even more bluntly than her late federal counterpart.
It also appears to involve borrowing some of the specific messaging Mr. Layton used in the 2005-06 election campaign, when he was in a very similar situation to the one Ms. Horwath is in now.
Here’s the new ad released this weekend by Ms. Horwath’s party:
Note the kicker, which the NDP described in an accompanying press release as the most important question for voters in this election: “Aren’t you ready to put the Liberals in the penalty box?”
The “penalty box” is something Mr. Layton invoked back in the 2005-06 federal campaign, after he had been the one to bring down a scandal-plagued Liberal government with which he had previously co-operated. More often, he also referred to Paul Martin’s Liberals needing a “time out.”
For New Democrats, there’s an obvious reason to make that argument in this sort of situation. For all the usual talk of “change” from politicians of all stripes, there are soft Liberal voters nervous about abandoning the party they usually vote for, not to mention about voting for one with very little experience in government. So the NDP is trying to downplay the magnitude of making such a decision.
That wasn’t the only case Mr. Layton made to voters in that 2005-06 election, which saw his party go from 18 to 29 seats in the House of Commons while the Liberals lost power, and it’s not the only one Ms. Horwath is making in this one. But with opinion research showing lots of voters upset with the Liberals but not completely writing them off – and plenty of room for movement between the Liberals and the NDP – there will probably be lots more talk about teaching the Liberals a lesson rather than giving up on them and their style of government altogether.