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NDP Leader Jack Layton addresses a campaign rally in Saint John on April 25, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
NDP Leader Jack Layton addresses a campaign rally in Saint John on April 25, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Layton scoffs at strategic voting: 'What sense would that make?' Add to ...

Jack Layton rejects the notion that NDP supporters who want to stop a Conservative majority should vote strategically in ridings where the Liberals are leading.

"I don't recommend that people vote for a party that has supported Stephen Harper a hundred times in the last two and a half years," the NDP Leader said Monday morning. "What sense would that make?"

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He added: "I am running opposing the policies of Stephen Harper, and we are building more and more support across the country because people want to se a new direction."

There is no question that support for Mr. Layton and his party has increased since the start of the election campaign. That is particularly true in Quebec where some public opinion surveys suggest the New Democrats are leading the Bloc Québécois. It may also be true in places like British Columbia, where Mr. Layton's party has been a serious contender in many ridings through a number of elections.

The growing interest in the NDP had both of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper campaigning in NDP-held ridings on Monday.

But the orange tide has yet to sweep through Southern Ontario, where there are huge numbers of seats in play. And it does not appear to have reached New Brunswick, where the NDP has just one seat and the other races are traditional battles between the blue and the red.

Saint John, the riding where Mr. Layton's visit drew upwards of 200 supporters on a chilly Monday morning, flipped to the Conservatives in 2008 but the Liberals were just 500 votes behind. The New Democrat was a distant third.

Polls and observations on the ground would suggest this is still a two-way race. Which means any votes siphoned by the New Democrats from the Liberals could make it easier for Mr. Harper to win a majority - an outcome most NDP supporters would like to avoid.

Veteran broadcaster Don Newman wrote in an opinion piece Monday on the online news outlet iPolitics: "Vote NDP and you could give Stephen Harper the majority government that so far has eluded him in three other campaigns. And not just a majority - a comfortable majority that will give him complete control of the House of Commons for the next four years.

It is a premise that irritates the normally jovial Mr. Layton.

"This is what Canadians have been told for so many years, that they don't have any choice, you can only choose one of two parties," he said when asked about Mr. Newman's assertion.

"If people vote for our candidate in Saint John, Rob Moir, who's a respected economist, then he can win and become the member of Parliament. That's what we do in elections. We put our candidates forward and we ask people to vote for us."

This is the first trip Mr. Layton has paid to this province since the start of the campaign. His colleague Yvon Godin, who is the incumbent in the riding of Acadie-Bathurst, is popular. But he holds the only seat out of 10 in New Brunswick in which the New Democrats would appear to be strongly competitive.

Still, the NDP Leader is riding high on his swelling support elsewhere in the country and is keen to see it spread.

There was large enthusiasm among the people who turned out to see him on a chilly spring morning. They offered chants of "Jack, Jack, Jack."

Mr. Layton was, as usual, all smiles. He even did a little jump to see to the back of the crowd - an ambitious leap for a man who is still walking with a cane after hip surgery in March.

"Friends, I can feel the momentum all across this country, including right here in New Brunswick," Mr. Layton told the appreciative crowd. "I hear Canadians tuning away from those who say, once again, that you have no choice - that you have to vote for more of the same."

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