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Layton tells Vancouver he’s the change BC needs

Entering Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre to the strains of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Jack Layton spoke Monday of hope and optimism and called for “real change” in a speech that seemed designed to evoke a certain Illinois senator’s presidential candidacy.

Despite polls suggesting the NDP are running a distant third nationwide, Layton was introduced as “Canada’s next prime minister” in his first BC appearance of the campaign and portrayed himself as the antidote to business-as-usual politics.

He aimed most of his criticism at Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, blasting the government for its handling of the economy, health care and the environment.

While only rarely making specific reference to the Liberals, he repeatedly suggested there was little to choose from between the two traditional ruling parties, emphasizing the need “to change the way things have been done in Ottawa, not just for the past 25 months or so but change from the past 25 years.”

The setting for the speech – the riding of Vancouver-Kingsway, where Liberal candidate David Emerson won in 2006 after promising to be Stephen Harper’s “worst nightmare” and then joined the new Tory cabinet before parliament had even convened – was ideal for this particular line of attack.

Layton spoke of the foreign affairs minister’s “betrayal” and promised to bring in laws to prohibit floor crossing.

“But you’ve got to wonder why Mr. Emerson even bothered to cross the floor of the House and join the Tories,” he said to the obvious delight of his supporters. “I mean if he wanted to help Harper to get his agenda through parliament, he could have done what everyone else in his former party did. They just voted to keep Harper going 43 times.”

Outside, a small handful of protesters chanted “Harper wants Jack” and “A vote for Jack is a vote for Harper.” It’s a traditional Liberal argument but one that seemed a little perverse on this day in this riding.

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