Around the same time that Sun News claims Jack Layton was getting a nude massage in Toronto, Stephen Harper was campaigning for the privatization of healthcare and for Albertan sovereignty. Which one do you think is more important to today’s election campaign, according to Sun? Go on, guess.
That hissing sound you hear is the air coming out of the NDP bandwagon’s tires. Which is a shame. For one glorious week it looked as if a party might be able to deny Conservatives a majority. At this point the NDP’s rise has almost certainly stopped. Whether it plummets and results in vote-splitting (guaranteeing a majority) or whether this flops like the Chretien Face Ad is anyone’s guess, though I suspect the former. Whether or not it should have been revealed is beside the point: awarding a majority government to a party that is currently in contempt of Parliament and in court on charges of election fraud is infinitely worse than shunning an Opposition leader, even if every seedy detail about the Layton massage story really is absolutely true.
The real point of this story, though, is that it is the pinnacle of a week-long effort to slam and shame the NDP in every way imaginable. The fact that the media has decided to actually attack a political party is a welcome change of events. The fact that the attacks have been so ridiculously, desperately contrived is not so welcome. We have been told by straight-faced journalists that the NDP doesn’t have a properly accessible constitution, that an NDP opposition (or worse, an NDP government) would lead to a collapse of the Canadian dollar, that the NDP would meddle in the Bank of Canada (never mind that Tory finance minister Jim Flaherty says exactly the same things), and, now, that Jack Layton might or might not have received a rub-and-tug massage in 1996.
Now, it’s interesting that in none of the coverage, even in Sun, has anybody actually managed to pin Jack to anything. The “young woman” he was caught with was in her 20s. It was investigated by police, but the most accurate charge levelled against it in the press was that there were “illegal massage parlours in the area.” And maybe I’m just being paranoid now, but I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the helpful local businessman which Sun has located to back up their story has ties to the Toronto police who leaked the story. Right?
Incidentally, that raises a disturbing question. The Conservatives deny they leaked this story. So do the Liberals. I find that unlikely — Sun TV management being stuffed full of people it hired straight out of Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office. But whoever might have tipped Sun to the story, it bears noting that this is the second time a smear story has been planted by the police in the national press in order to attack a leading opponent of the Conservative Party. They pulled this stunt in 2006, too — that time it was the RCMP, smearing the Liberals. Either the Tories leaked it, or the police did. It wasn’t the Liberals. Only the police had the information, and only the Conservatives had the access to Sun TV, to pull this off.
I realize that a lot of Canadians may be rethinking whether to vote for Layton now. I’m not necessarily interested in defending Layton, either. Maybe it’s all true. Maybe none of it is. But here’s the thing to bear in mind. Shortly after the time that Layton may or may not have been visiting an illicit massage parlour, Stephen Harper was taking up the leadership of the National Citizen’s Coalition, a group whose reason for existence is to campaign for the privatization of the healthcare system. In that role Harper also wrote various letters urging Alberta to tear a page out of the Bloc Quebecois’s playbook and move towards its own nationhood.
Remember, at this point none of the leaders actually have any record in terms of what they’d do in a majority Parliament, including Harper — so far every law has required the support of at least one opposition party. What you have to decide is whether a visit to a massage parlour or a campaign to privatize healthcare, the decision to commit money laundering during the 2006 election, and becoming the first government convicted of contempt of Parliament in any Parliamentary democracy, ever, is a more serious black mark on a politician’s record.Tweet