Layton returns to Commons with mandate to 'fix Ottawa'
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, May 24, 2011 9:16AM EDT
New Democrat Leader Jack Layton said his party's new role as official Opposition comes with a mandate to "fix Ottawa because Ottawa is broken."
In his first English-language interview since the May 2 election that saw the NDP vault past the Liberals to second place, Layton said he plans to try to change the tone in the House of Commons.
"(Canadians) sent us to Ottawa to fix Ottawa because Ottawa is broken," Layton told CTV's Canada AM.
"Unfortunately we're not off to a very good start with Mr. Harper appointing defeated Conservatives right back into the Senate. This is exactly the kind of thing that boils the blood of so many Canadians."
Layton was referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's announcement last week that he was appointing two former senators who had resigned to run unsuccessfully for seats in Commons, and a defeated Conservative cabinet minister, to the Senate.
Layton said his job as official Opposition leader will be to hold Harper to account on such decisions.
"We have a job to do on behalf of all those people who voted for us because we've got to make sure Mr. Harper remembers that 64 per cent of Canadians did not vote for him, so he better listen to what the other parties have to say," he said.
Layton said the NDP will also strive to reduce rhetoric and mud-slinging in the House of Commons when Parliament resumes on June 2.
"This name calling and nasty politics that has gone on, we're hoping as a party to put an end to that," Layton said.
In the last minority government the Conservatives required the support of at least one of the opposition parties in order to pass legislature. That allowed the NDP to have input on some issues and to lobby successfully for some changes to government bills.
The balance will be different now that the Conservatives have a majority and no longer need the support of the opposition parties. However, Layton said he plans to rally Canadians for their support on key issues in order to apply pressure to the government.
Layton said he plans to pressure the Conservatives to reflect some of the NDP's priorities in the upcoming budget.
"What we'll be doing is putting a real emphasis on the needs of families, people are really struggling, they don't have family doctors in far too many cases, we want the government to address that," Layton said.
"We've got to do something about retirement security for seniors, seniors shouldn't have to live in poverty, every one of them could be lifted out of poverty in this budget that's coming up in a couple of weeks and that's what we're going to press the government to do."
Layton admitted he had to pinch himself the morning after the election to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
"Even though some pollsters were suggesting we might have a result like that, I have to admit I was mildly skeptical that we would achieve a result like that," Layton said.
But he added that now it's time for the party to look forward to the future, rather than back on its recent victory.