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NDP orders up decals for its campaign plane

NDP Leader Jack Layton waves from his campaign plane as he arrives in Calgary on Sept. 7, 2008.

ANDREW VAUGHAN/The Canadian Press

Amid all the breathless speculation about an imminent election comes confirmation the New Democrats have purchased custom branding for their campaign aircraft.

National director Brad Lavigne confirmed the NDP decals - big stickers sporting the party's orange logo - were ordered 10 days ago. It takes about 48 hours for them to be applied to the plane.

The move comes as Jack Layton is in hospital recovering from surgery to repair his fractured left hip. Party strategists have repeatedly said the NDP Leader will be fit and ready for a national campaign, should come this spring.

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The trigger could be the budget, which Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will deliver March 22. The budget and the votes supporting it are confidence measures, and it takes all three opposition parties to defeat the minority Tory government.

Both the Liberals and Bloc are expected to vote against the budget. But it is not yet clear what the New Democrats will do.

The NDP and the Conservatives have leased planes from Air Canada, as they have in previous elections. The Liberals are chartering a plane from an Alberta company, Enerjet.

Mr. Lavigne also confirmed that before Mr. Layton's surgery - when the leader's hip was quite sore - the party "explored options" as to how they would be able to get him on and off the campaign plane if he were on crutches or in a wheelchair.

The bigger airports have covered ramps at the gates for boarding, which allow for easy access for those with limited mobility. But political parties typically use a separate terminal during a campaign - but they do not have the same facilities so steep air stairs are pushed up to the plane for boarding and disembarking.

How would Mr. Layton have dealt with this? One way would have been to have reporters, campaign officials and the NDP Leader board through a central terminal that has ramps and gates. But this would add hours on to campaign schedule as everyone would be required to go through regular airport security and screening, plus luggage would be handled by the airports.

In addition, not all of the NDP's ridings are in centres with major airport terminals.

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Another possibility, according to a source involved in previous national campaigns, would be to use special equipment such as mechanized box that is used to bring larger items - food trollies, for example - up to the plane. Such a device could accommodate someone in a wheel chair.

But Mr. Lavigne suggested this was a moot point now. "After the surgery we will unlikely need any different arrangements," he said - unlikely but not for sure.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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