It only took one seemingly off-the-cuff remark for at least one Lib blogger to start speculating about a focus on health care in any impending federal election. But a far more significant move to reclaim policy a key issue looks to have largely happened under the radar.
When the text of Jack Layton's speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center was put online, my first reaction was surprise that Layton would conclude with a discussion of the environment and climate change, rather than keeping the focus primarily on Obama's efforts on health care. But in retrospect, the speech along with other recent actions would appear to be part of a concerted effort to win back some of the environmental vote which the Libs had tried to claim under Stephane Dion.
Needless to say, with Michael Ignatieff looking to present himself as the defender of the tar sands, there wouldn't seem to be much danger of the Libs eating into that same voter pool whenever the next election takes place. And without the Libs tag-teaming with Elizabeth May to try to equate support for carbon taxes with environmental bona fides, the Greens would figure to face significantly more trouble gaining traction in their criticisms of the NDP from 2008.
Not that Layton is likely to complain if health care ends up at the top of voters' minds either. But all indications are that the NDP is in the midst of a strong effort to win back its hard-earned title as the strongest environmental voice in Parliament - and that can only bode well for the party's efforts to broaden its progressive support base.