Thursday, June 09, 2005

A few pointers for the NDP

The gang at Progressive Bloggers is delighting in the latest Decima poll numbers showing the CPC in freefall. Scott Tribe, The Amazing Wonderdog, The Jurist and others have begun offering their advice to the NDP on how to build on their support. Herewith, my four cents.

1. On Quebec. Run candidates here by all means, but don't waste time having Jack Layton campaign here in any serious way. One token appearance is more than sufficient. Seats are not going to be won here, and the NDP needs to focus on winnable seats, particularly the ones that were lost in three-way squeakers last time around.

2. On Clarity. Furthermore, when speaking of Quebec and national unity issues, for the love of God don't say that you're going to repeal the Clarity Act. It's a complete vote-killer in English-speaking Canada, and will be doubly so in an election where the Bloc has the potential to pick up even more seats in Quebec. It's popular legislation, and whatever soft nationalist votes you might win in Quebec will be completely overshadowed by the federalist votes you lose in English-speaking Canada (including English-speaking Quebec).

3. On Gravitas. Jack Layton seems to be getting somewhat better at projecting an image of a sober leader, capable of leading the country. But there is always room for improvement on this front. In the English-language debates last year, however, Jack was grinning so much that I started referring to him as the Happy Elf. That's not good. (Of course, I referred to PM as Elmer Fudd and SH as Lego-Man, so Jack got off pretty lightly).

4. On Target Groups. This one is a little harder to call, and much of the debate right now seems to be about whether the NDP should play to its core or try to be Liberal-lite. My first thought is that adopting a strategy aimed at bringing back disaffected voters (especially youth), while a noble idea, will not be a particularly effective strategy. This is going to be the Gomery election, and I think it's unlikely that an appeal to people who don't normally vote will work in an atmosphere of political disgust. Frankly, the challenge will be to ensure that those who normally vote continue to do so.

Count me among those who think that the growth zone is among left-leaning Liberals, frustrated with the Martin government - and I'm biased, being one of them. These are individuals who normally vote, like socially progressive policies, but want them tempered with some fiscal responsibility. They will be attracted to a party with a vision (see the Trudeau years), as long as it seems attainable and well-thought out. For the most part, they are probably middle class (or aspiring to be so), and need to be wooed on this basis. To court this cohort, the NDP needs to throw off the shackles of the 1961 marriage of the CCF to the CLC, and ditch its rhetoric aimed at industrial unions. The unions have lost their ability to deliver the votes of their workers, and its time to move on and court those middle class voters with a social democratic bent.

I'll probably have more to say on this as the actual election approaches, but this seems to be a good start.

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At 10:01 pm, Blogger robert mcbean said...

i'm curious to know more about why you think ndp candidates can't win in quebec. with the Liberals out of favour who would a progressive federalist vote for? are the greens strong than the ndp in quebec

At 9:33 am, Blogger Matt said...

A progressive federalist in Quebec will still vote for the Liberals, holding his/her nose with a vise.

To illustrate my point, here are last year's results in Outremont, my own riding, and the place where the NDP got their highest vote share in the province:

Jean Lapierre (L) 15675
François Rebello (BQ) 12730
Omar Aktouf (NDP) 5382
Marc Rousseau (C) 2284

The Liberals were deeply unpopular here last time around, but federalist voters still voted for them (or didn't vote at all, in some cases). I strongly believe that the only reason that the NDP even did as well as it did here is because the Liberals ran Lapierre, a former Bloquiste.

The problem here is that "federalist" and "progressive" are often unlinked. If a voter is both, the federalist side usually determines the voting choice, and goes with the "safe" option of the Liberals.

Quebec is a very progressive province, but a lot of that vote goes to the Bloc. As a scrutineer, I was advised to be friendly with the Bloc scrutineers because they were the ones most likely to be sympathetic to the NDP.


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