The more I think about Jack Layton's overtures to Sheila Copps, the more I think it is a good idea for her.
If I was Sheila Copps, one thing is for sure: I would be running in the upcoming election, no matter what. Either as a Liberal, an independent, or an NDPer, I'd be out there.
There are two main reasons that I think Copps should look favourably at Layton's suggestion.
The first is that it should be the voters who decide which candidate gets to represent them in Ottawa. That can only be done in the voting booth, not the party's riding association meeting. The election is about voters -- the riding association is just made up of those people who decided to join the party.
Really, if Copps is forced out by the local Liberals, I would be very entertained to see her beat Tony Valeri in the general election.
Here's the second reason. Not only does it seem like Sheila Copps has more in common with the NDP's platform than she does with Paul Martin's right-wing shift, but it is also clear that under Paul Martin she would have very little role in Parliament at all. Her chances of escaping the back bench are pretty low -- at least for the next eight years or so. I think she has a better opportunity to advance her views as a strong member of the opposition.
Just so you know where I'm coming from, I've never voted for the NDP, and (while I'd never say never) I don't have any plans to either. (Although, if I lived in Toronto-Danforth, maybe I would consider it this time.)
I guess Sheila ought to be careful -- rebels don't always win, and thinking long-term there are many possible futures (see: Chretien, February 27, 1986) -- but running, and winning, as an NDPer sounds like an interesting option if that's what Paul Martin and Tony Valeri force.