Last election the NDP took 7.5% of the popular vote in Quebec. Now polls consistently show the NDP at around 12% in Quebec. In other words, the NDP is up 4 to 5% in province with about a quarter of Canada’s voters. However, recent polls put the NDP below what they were in 2006 nationally and hardly any poll since 2006 has showed the NDP rising above what the obtained in 2006. Ergo the NDP is bleeding voters elsewhere. This is certainly the case in greater Toronto. The NDP is loosing support both to the Liberals and the Greens there.
Toronto Center and Willowdale were not flukes; they are the future. The NDP is going to take it on the chin in the 905 and 416. If there was an election this spring chances are Layton might keep his seat, albeit barely, but Chow, Marston, Charlton and Nash will loose their seats.
Now, the political spectrum has never been a particularly fool proof way of understanding politics in Canada and this is especially so with regard to the western provinces. The NDP and Liberals are not fighting for the same voters there; the NDP and Conservatives are. That is what makes the following NDP “game plan” all the more baffling. “Damaging Harper and the Conservatives on ethical issues like the Cadman mess mainly helps the Grits, and that’s not in our gameplan.” Before the arrival of the Reform Party, the NDP was where protest voters parked their votes. Damaging the conservative parties on ethical issues has historically been a very good game plan for the NDP and did someone forget remind Layton that the seat Dona Cadman is running for is held up the NDP’s Penny Priddy. The Liberals stand no chance of winning Surrey North.
The NDP seems to have seen the writing on the wall and have realized that while they are bleeding support to the Greens in urban centers and also loosing support to Liberals inside in greater Toronto they are holding their own in rural and small town Canada. To this end, rather than minimizing Conservative scandal or using it as a means of broaching other subjects (e.g., NAFTA in case of the Obama leak), they have started to play them up. They have also not followed the Liberals in backing carbon tax that is bound to be unpopular with rural and small town voters.
So long as NDP continue on this track, there is reason to believe to uneasy truce between the Liberals and NDP could develop that could prepare the groundwork for a Liberal NDP minority government by doing two things. The first is by forging ties between the two parties and the second by developing a strategy to pull the Conservatives into different directions.
The key is get NDP supporters at this junction in time to recognize that there are other measures of success other than just the number of seats one wins and to realize that even though the NDP won 29 seats in the 2006, the 39th parliament has not been a successful one for the party. This involves looking back and realizing that at its best, the NDP has provided an invaluable service to all Canadians; it widened the Canadian political debate and did so by historically being the most ideological of the major political parities. Parties concerned with the “art of the possible” are not infusing the political debate with new ideas with little chance of furthering their party at the polls. They are reactive. However, the catch 22 of such pragmatism is that such parties concede some of the field to those who are not so cautious. To use an evolutionary metaphor, the politically brave and ideologically pure help determine the policy areas to be discussed; the powerful and pragmatic determine what policies get accepted. Historically, the NDP were able to get “results” for Canadians in two ways. One, they played king maker in several Liberal minority governments. Two, they were able to achieve successes at a distance by continually infusing the political arena with new policy ideas. Either way the Liberal party benefited. By infusing the political arena with ideas from a leftist perspective, the NDP shifted the political debate in Canada leftward, leaving Liberals and not the Progressive Conservatives as the “natural governing party of Canada”.