Stupid Constituional Tricks
Jack Layton's cute little motion to force the government to call an election for February sounds pragmatic and reasonable -- and clearly no politician wants to be on the campaign trail during the Christmas Holidays. Various other groups don't want it then either, and it's often painted that the Canadian public in general doesn't either, but I wonder. It might be good for the politicians to feel the pain of their retail employee-constituents who find the last 50 days the most hectic of the whole year.
Constitutional Monarchy's like Canada are governed by a combination of written and traditional rules and one of these for minority governments (as Canada currently has) is that government can dissolve parliament for specific dates and/or hand specific dates to the opposition at which the opposition can pull the trigger. But the opposition can not dissolve parliament at a particular date, much though it might like to do.
Jack Layton, whose stellar record as a city councillor in Toronto speaks for itself, still needs to go back to elementary school when it comes to running national politics. His scheme is the kind of pragmatic, creative one that there is room for at the civic level. But a country can't go changing these procedures at the whim of an albeit intelligent, creative group of people. A federal government, even one that does not have a parliamentary majority, is still about stability and the one power that the governing party in the minority has is this: choosing when a the next possible election date will be. It's a game of "I aim, you fire", but the neophyte leader of the NDP will just have to get used to it.