It is hard to find a Layton soundbite that doesn't reference the Liberal Party. Layton continually compares the new government with the last, inferring that Canada is clearly in better hands. For his part, Harper seems determined to paint the Liberals as obstructionist, unlike their opposition counterparts:
Asked if he was afraid the opposition parties wouldn't support his plan, Harper said, "there's been a lot of beating of chests, particularly by the Liberal Party."
There seemed to be two distinct schools of criticism emerging, he said.
"The NDP and the Bloc are saying the program doesn't go far enough or doesn't pay enough, and they're suggesting some ways to make sure families get the benefit they should. And we're interested in looking at those changes.
"But the Liberal Party is opposing to the idea of paying parents at all."
Translation, all parties are willing to work together except for those evil Liberals. Harper can play this game with relative impunity, but the NDP is engaging in a dangerous tactic. Ideologically, it doesn't take much thought to conclude these two parties have little in common, much less so than either does with the Liberal Party. Layton is quick to speak to issues of purity, wherein he puts the interests of Canadians ahead of any agenda. With this wink/nod dance with the Conservatives, Layton may just make himself largely irrelevant, coupled with the appearance of an opportunist.
There doesn't seem to be any question that the Liberal Party leadership contenders have a tilt to the left. Substantatively, this reality may translate into more palatable stances for the soft-NDP voter. While Layton dances with the Conservatives, he exposes himself further to the claim that we must unite the left. The Liberals can position themselves as the only true alternative to the Conservatives, while the NDP plays footsie. I think Layton's strategy is short-sighted and may backfire as Canadians see the hypocrisy of bashing the Liberals, while tamely defying the Conservatives. Layton may win some symbolic concessions to maintain a sense of relevance, but this could be overshadowed if the Liberals react effectively. What looks like an opportunity now may prove to be Layton's undoing.