"On the main area the NDP sought action, it's difficult to see how the proposals we received late last night prevent the growth of private health care," Layton said. "It's not apparent on first read how protecting medicare health care is obtained here."
An NDP spokesperson has said the party won't support the Liberals beyond Nov. 15 if there's no deal.
"How we vote now will be determined by whether meaningful action can occur on some of the areas that we outlined a few weeks ago," Layton said.
"Ethics, pensions, environment among them, but protecting public medicare from privatization as well."
Has Layton already made up his mind and decided to let the Liberals sweat a little? Or has he caught a case of the dithers from prolonged exposure to Paul Martin?
If recent poll numbers hold up, the NDP could potentially double its seat total, not just at the Liberals' expense in Ontario, but also at the Conservatives' expense in British Columbia as populist.
But 35 seats in a Tory minority Parliament are worth far less 18 seats in the current Liberal minority. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not offer the NDP any incentives to keep his government afloat, as long as he can rely on the Bloc. Nor will the NDP likely be able to ask.
And Jack Layton's leadership, oddly enough, might be put in jeopardy even by winning more seats. He's staked everything on his ability to extract concessions from the Liberals. He has made a reactionary last-ditch defence of the public health care monopoly the focus of his success or failure as leader of the NDP.
If the Liberals call his bluff and he doesn't pull the plug, he loses all credibility. If he pulls the plug and the Liberals lose, he'll be regarded as having led Canada's most sacred cow to the Tory slaughter. But if he succeeds, he will be hailed as the saviour of the NDP and public health care, and he'll join his brethren in a victory dance over the graves of Canadians who died waiting in line for lifesaving treatment.