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Sunday Election Campaign Musings. The NDP

A couple of thoughts on the NDP this Sunday AM.

– Danielle posted a blogpiece at her site yesterday challenging Jack Layton’s premise that only he could stop Harper, by asking any NDP blogger/supporter to come up with 100 ridings they think the NDP could win, that would at least propel them to Official Opposition status. So far, responses from NDP partisans have been in short supply. Heck, I’d be even more lenient then Danielle: I’d take a list of 75 ridings the NDP thinks it can win in.

– A rhetorical question on my part: I, like others, am still rather sceptical even in the worst-case scenario for the Liberals that the NDP will manage to get enough support to get official opposition status, but let’s say for arguments sake they manage it. My question would be to the NDP supporters/partisans/bloggers if they would take an NDP official opposition if the result of the vote-splitting that occurred to get that result means a Conservative majority, which means a firm 4 year continuation of policies and ideas that are anathema to them? Or, will that not matter to them as much as knocking the Liberals into 3rd place?

My feeling is the answer for the really partisan NDP supporters, particularly the ones on the blogosphere (like Dipper Chick, who I respect as a blogger, but consider to be one of the more hyper-partisan NDP supporters out there), is that they would be willing to take that trade in a heartbeat. Their goal isn’t much different then Stephen Harper: they wish the Liberal Party to be destroyed, in order for the electorate to be polarized between the left and the right, with no party staking out the middle ground. I’m not so sure your typical centre-left wing progressive voter who leans back and forth between the 2 parties would feel the same way however.

– Just as a counterpoint to that, to show my NDP blogger acquaintances I’m a reasonable person, I wanted to comment on this coalition talk that Jack Layton was musing about a couple of weeks ago, which many of the top Liberals instantly rejected, but go at it from a different angle.

Let’s do hypotheticals and let’s say that the Conservatives only win a minority government, and lets say the NDP makes history and becomes the Official Opposition for the first time ever. The Conservatives draw up a throne speech/budget, and the NDP in their official opposition capacity decide to immediately vote against it and bring the government down, with their obvious calculation being that Governor-General Jean will not dissolve Parliament this soon after the prior election, and instead will ask the next largest party to try and form the government. The BQ decide to support the NDP move, which leaves it to the Liberals. Would they support that move?

In this scenario, I’d be one of the first to urge the LPC to go along with it. I realize there are many Liberals who are seemingly more anti-NDP then they are anti-Conservative, and I’ve been admittedly annoyed at some of the NDP statements and their blogging supporters attacks – which have at times been more concentrated on the Liberals then the Conservatives the past 2 1/2 years, but if this imaginary scenario were to occur, I’d prefer a Prime Minister Layton (which still sounds really really odd to me, even as I type it) to a repeat performance of a Prime Minister Harper. My ideological position is on the centre-left of the Liberal Party (some of my Blogging Tory friends would say far left, but whatever) and I’ve always historically had sympathy for some of the NDP positions. They certainly would have far less policies I’d disagree with then the extreme right-wing Conservative views of one Stephen Harper and the current incarnation of the Conservative Party of Canada. So, I’d have little qualms about bringing the government down, even if it helped the NDP to form the government.

Besides, it might be good strategy for the Liberals to let Jack have the big chair, because I’m not so sure he or the NDP would be able to handle it. It’s easy to make promises and such when you have traditionally had little chance at forming a government. It gets a lot harder when you actually unexpectedly get put there. With apologies to Bob Rae, see 1990 and the NDP election in Ontario as an example.

So there you have Sunday NDP chat for today.

UPDATE: So, one of my commenters has informed me one of the readers has sent in a list of 100 ridings they think the NDP can win in to Danielle (probably the same person who wrote to me wrote in to her). Fair enough, but for fairness sake, I’ll also post Danielle’s updated response:

A “reader” has provided a list, though the very list defies credibility with dozens of ridings where the NDP finished 3rd and more than 20% back and will at best finish 15% back this time. It almost seemed like it was just ridings picked out of a hat. This is exactly why all the seat projections show they never go above 45 seats.

Could the NDP win even a majority of those seats that are listed by this NDP supporter? Perhaps – with a complete collapse of the Liberal vote. But at this point, I still don’t see that.

24 comments to Sunday Election Campaign Musings. The NDP

  • I know I am severely late to the party (sorry, I have been preoccupied) but this “hyper-partisan” would like to respond.

    First of all, in terms of seats that the NDP could win, the margins from last time need to be factored in with the massive drop in Liberal support. I think it is altogether possible, and dare I say probable, that the Liberals could fall even further.

    On the Harper majority: what is the difference between a Harper majority and a minority where the Liberals prop up the government? Really? And don’t resort to scare tactics about coat-hangers and long drawn-out wars (I’ve heard it all). You need to give the Canadian public a little more credit. There are some things that a government can’t get away with, majority or not.

    What is far more insidious and harmful is what the Liberals did in the 90’s with their cuts to transfer payments. This barely registered with voters but it starved our social programs, created a health care crisis in many provinces, and shifted the political spectrum in Canada to the right. Something we still feel today.

    New Democrats really do want Jack Layton to be Prime Minister. It’s not just something that we say to look like we are in a position of strength. We are not content with Liberal or Conservative minority or majority governments. So we are doing something about it.

    Led by Jack Layton, New Democrats are bringing it this time around. We are not going to concern ourselves with your seat projections based on historical voting patterns. We are sensing the winds of change and we are going to let Canadians know what we have to offer as government and see if they want it.

    I could go on about the hypocrisy of Liberals suggesting that New Democrats are selling out the left, but I’m sure you have read my thoughts on this before Scott.

  • sharonapple88

    To add: It’s interesting to note in two of the three provinces where there has been a referendum, the government putting the idea forward had lost a close election and seen their rivals take a disproportionate number of seats. In the 1996 BC election, the Liberal party won more votes than the NDP (41.82% to 39.45%), but the NDP ended up taking the majority of the seats. In the 1999 Ontario election, the Liberals lost by 5%, but the PC ended up with about 69% more seats.

  • sharonapple88

    I’d expect Conservatives to be opposed. It’s their nature: they want everything to remain as is. I do find the occassional progressive supporter opposed to it slightly surprising… slightly (power is power, doesn’t matter who owns it).

    (As for the electorate… you can’t blame them entirely if they’re lied to. Yes, in a democracy it’s up to the public to make informed decision, but it’s difficult to sort through truth and lies.)

    Stumbled on a paper on Electorial Bias and the NDP. (You can substitute NDP and any established provincial party for the results.) You can see the reluctance for any party to change, especially if they’re an established brand in a province.

    Okay, list of provinces that have considered proportional representation referendums:

    British Columbia, Ontario: Liberal government in 2005
    (They’re going to vote on it again in 2009).

    Ontario: Liberal government in 2005

    Prince Edward Island: Progressive Conservatives in 2005.

  • @sharonapple88

    About the Ontario’s referendum on changing the electoral system, I would not totally blame it on the electorate. McGuinty hands off policy is partly to blame. He wants to stay neutral. So in a way, he does not care whether it pass or not. On the other hand, the Conservative ran an effective campaign against it. Ridiculing the system. Something they are very good at. Creating doubt in people’s mind. People were complaining that they have not been given enough time and information to decide. So they voted against what they don’t understand just as you would not sign a contract you don’t understand. Indifference or too preoccupied with making a living? Either way, McGuinty and the electorate share the blame on this one.

  • Ted

    Good news for you Liberals.
    Decima and cpac have the race tightning

  • “My question would be to the NDP supporters/partisans/bloggers if they would take an NDP official opposition if the result of the vote-splitting that occurred to get that result means a Conservative majority, which means a firm 4 year continuation of policies and ideas that are anathema to them? Or, will that not matter to them as much as knocking the Liberals into 3rd place?”

    I think this comment perfectly reflects the politics of fear upon which the Liberals built their dynasty. If the Conservatives win a majority, it won’t be because the NDP ran a good campaign. It will be because a hell of a lot of voters decided to support the Conservatives. Liberals are always trying to connect these two things when in fact they are unrelated. The NDP is doing the same thing as every other party: trying to gain as much support as it can. No one calls the Liberals’ motives into question when they do the same thing, and no one should call the NDP’s motives in to question when they do it.

  • I want a simple answer as to whether NDP supporters would take Official Opposition status if it meant in return a Harper majority government.

    Obviously I can’t speak for all NDP supporters, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the NDP gaining Official Opposition status even if it meant a Harper majority.

    Now answer this question, Scott. When election day rolls around would you vote for the NDP if they were ahead of the Liberals in the polls or would you go down with the Liberal ship?

  • The Liberals are only marginally different than the Conservatives. Just Conservatives going slow at best. The NDP tends towards third way policies but is perceptibly more progressive.
    I certainly would never think of voting Liberal whether it meant a majority Conservative government or not. Anyone who votes for either of the main parties is under the illusion that there any but marginal differences between the two. The two major party system here is like the Democrats and Republicans in the US, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

  • A non-emu's opinion

    “We will take what the Canadian electorate, in its wisdom, decides is the best outcome.”

    Sounds a lot like, “Yes, we’ll take it, but I don’t want to admit as much.”

    Of course, as you say, the Liberals are for pretty much the same thing.

    Which is why partisan voters, on any side, are idiots.

    Here’s the deal folks, in a Harper minority, whether or not Liberals are official opposition, Liberals still control whether the government remains in power or not unless they’re decimated to the point where their votes aren’t needed to topple the government. And that just ain’t gonna happen regardless.

    So NDP opposition or Liberal opposition makes no practical difference in what we’re going to see.

    Harper minority vs Harper majority makes a very big difference. The fact that a minority gov’t could be defeated on a policy confidence vote will keep a minority PM Harper from proposing the stuff that would make Canadians go “WTH?” were an election called over it. So you will not see, say, the resumption of the death penalty being brought up in a minority government.

    In a majority government however, especially in early days so that Canadians have 4 years to forget about it? Anybody really want to lay bets that won’t come up and pass?

    I’m normally against strategic voting in that voting for anything other than what you want only ensures that what you want won’t be seen as an issue that matters enough to get your vote.

    In this case, however, what I want most is an end to Harper’s destruction of our parliament, our government, and our Canadian way of life. Unfortunately, I’m in a conservative stronghold riding, so there’s really nothing I can do about it but whine.

  • sharonapple88

    In fact, I was a supporter of mixed-member proportional representation, but it got killed by Liberals amongst others, and the Ontario electorate basically decided that it might have provided equity amongst political parties, but was not a better outcome than first-past-the-post for constituents. Fair enough. In that case, we accept that decision and encourage voters to support the party and leader they truly want to represent them.

    Wait a second, the first past the post was brought about by McGuinty (Ontario Liberal Party) and people got the chance to vote on it (the Liberals couldn’t kill it at this point). There were quite a few libloggers who supported the idea. Blame the uninformed electorate for its fall.

    Throwing this out there — what provinces proportional representation? How many were brought forth by Liberal, NDP, and Conservative governments?

  • A reader

    “It appears to me you just threw together a list of 100 ridings by picking them out of a hat in order to send her a list for the mere sake of sending one in.”

    I didn’t … and I just gave my rationale for the list in a comment over at Danielle’s blog.

    “Youíre deflecting the question. I want a simple answer as to whether NDP supporters would take Official Opposition status if it meant in return a Harper majority government.”

    We will take what the Canadian electorate, in its wisdom, decides is the best outcome. It’s this old-fashioned thing called democracy …

    In fact, I was a supporter of mixed-member proportional representation, but it got killed by Liberals amongst others, and the Ontario electorate basically decided that it might have provided equity amongst political parties, but was not a better outcome than first-past-the-post for constituents. Fair enough. In that case, we accept that decision and encourage voters to support the party and leader they truly want to represent them.

    I don’t fully accept your hypothetical false-choice between the two named outcomes, but one thing is clear, Scott: the Liberals would gladly accept a Harper majority if it meant they could stay as the Official Opposition and keep the NDP back. In fact, it’s the very situation they created in the last Parliament by refusing to vote on things that really matter to people they supposedly represent, and on which they supposedly disagreed so vigourously with Harper.

  • Look, would you guys, NDP and Liberal, quit sniping and get back to the real fight?

    Because we’re looking at a Conservative Majority if nothing changes.

    Progressive voters are going to judge the party insiders and activists harshly if you don’t turn this thing around. We’re worried about real issues. You’re worried about who gets the corner office!

    Quit being assholes!

  • janfromthebruce

    Hi Scott,
    thanks for showing that you would support the liberal MPs supporting a New Democrat led coalition with liberals.
    I also realize that you are a left-centre liberal.

  • A reader said Danielle was given the 100 list. I quickly checked the list but some are too close to call and some riding have been predicted to go to the Liberals. So that goes back to my blog and epiphany this morning against strategic voting. You can’t predict the future. What you end up doing is eroding votes from a single party, effectively making it impossible to unseat the present government. Instead of everyone focusing on what party can unseat the government, their view is narrowed down to their local ridings. Which would work if we have a proportional system which we don’t. So a smart Conservative could actually encourage these current incarnation of strategic voting that is being promoted. Because people will be too focused on their local riding forgetting that we don’t have a proportional system of election.

  • @A reader

    You’re deflecting the question. I want a simple answer as to whether NDP supporters would take Official Opposition status if it meant in return a Harper majority government.

    Yes or no (you can provide reasons for each.. but all I’ve seen are humming and hawwing.. and using this as another excuse to attack the Liberals with).

  • A reader said, (said) “.. the Liberals were strategically and organizationally unprepared to wage an election, and thus sat on their hands and let Harper have his way with them, and the rest of the country at the same time. If you canít do the job, step out of the way and let someone do it, who can.”

    BINGO! The Liberal Party (at least for now) is a spent force without anything that resembles courage or principles needed to stop Harper. Your Party did NOT do its job as official opposition by OPPOSING Harper!

    I don’t blame individual Liberals for your plight (well maybe Mr. Cherniak) and you have your work cut out for you to relocate your political soul, values and purpose. In the meanwhile – get out of the way. Your inadvertent support of Harper in Parliament and in this campaign is hurting Canadians!

  • @A reader

    Post updated to reflect your list, but her response to your list at her site I included, and I’ve added my scepticism. It appears to me you just threw together a list of 100 ridings by picking them out of a hat in order to send her a list for the mere sake of sending one in.

  • A reader

    “…one of the annoyances I have with partisan NDP bloggers/supporters – even when they get a post that actually supports them and their party in some instance, (and that is in short supply in the Liberal blogosphere these days, Iíll admit) you folks go ballistic at any perceived fault or injustice you see in the blogpost.”

    That part is fair. I was reacting to the first paragraph, because the list of ridings took Danielle so long to post, and then I didn’t read the rest of your post as thoroughly. Sorry about that.

  • A reader

    “My question would be to the NDP supporters/partisans/bloggers if they would take an NDP official opposition if the result of the vote-splitting that occurred to get that result means a Conservative majority, which means a firm 4 year continuation of policies and ideas that are anathema to them? Or, will that not matter to them as much as knocking the Liberals into 3rd place?”

    Scott, that’s just what we’ve had up to this point, because the Liberals were strategically and organizationally unprepared to wage an election, and thus sat on their hands and let Harper have his way with them, and the rest of the country at the same time.

    If you can’t do the job, step out of the way and let someone do it, who can.

    You’ve given no evidence that Liberal MPs would start to vote against him after the election (when after all, they’ll be preoccupied with how they can chuck Dion and still pay off all their debts from the last leadership camapign and election), anymore than they did before the election.

  • @April Reign

    Uh.. April.. where did I mention strategic voting? The question was asked where the NDP would win so many seats to form the Official Opposition. I and others are still waiting for an answer.

    As for Dipperchick, the reason I’m quoting her specific article is if you read through it, she is quoted as saying she wishes the Liberals would completely disappear – a view held by not just her in the NDP partisan world. That’s why I asked my hypothtical question about whether you NDP’ers would take the bone of Official Opposition if it meant a Harper majority in return. Again, I see no replies (so far) to that.

    Finally, I’ll just comment one of the annoyances I have with partisan NDP bloggers/supporters – even when they get a post that actually supports them and their party in some instance, (and that is in short supply in the Liberal blogosphere these days, I’ll admit) you folks go ballistic at any perceived fault or injustice you see in the blogpost.

  • A reader

    Sorry to have to point this out, but Danielle was given 100+ seats over two comments last night, but then took over 10 hours to post those comments.

    OK, maybe she was away from her computer for awhile and didn’t get around to noticing. I doubt that she was afraid to post the responses to her challenge (couldn’t be that, now, surely).

    But you may want to revisit your comment that “So far, responses from NDP partisans have been in short supply” in light of Danielle’s tardiness.

  • Why is Rae always pulled like some rabbit out of hat? Other parties have had and continue to have problems and fuckups and yet BR is shown as the absolute as to why the NDP cannot/should not govern.

    You would come from a stronger position had the libs shown any strength instead of capitulating to Harper consistently showing either lack of strength or a commitment to Con policies.

    Pulling out the vote strategic vote liberal is just sad. Libs may be strong in some ridings but not all. Keeping Harper out requires more than partisan fall back attacks.

    You have no leg to stand on to attack dipper chick as holy partisan batman and then resort to slamming Layton and alluding to Rae as EPIC FAIL. Besides he’s your problem now. Good luck with that.

  • “… because Iím not so sure he or the NDP would be able to handle it. Itís easy to make promises and such when you have traditionally had little chance at forming a government. It gets a lot harder when you actually get put there – with apologies to Bob Rae, see 1990 and the NDP election in Ontario as an example.”

    Typical Ontario-centric view! The New Democrats have formed multiple governments in British Columbia – Saskatchewan – Manitoba and are the Official Opposition in Nova Scotia. They have taken provinces like Saskatchewan with crippling debt and turned the economy around. The introduction of provincial health plans, and numerous other social and economic initiatives have allowed them to serve a number of terms in each of these western provinces.

    It is obvious to me, that Liberals are going to continue in this election as they did in the most recent parliament and give Stephen Harper a pass. Liberal hatred of New Democrats is historical and obvious. Liberal bloggers (shall I raise names here? … cherniak – fuddle duddle and other prove the old prairies axiom: ‘Liberal / Tory … Same old story”

    Have a nice rest of your election!!

  • sharonapple88

    Their goal isnít much different them Stephen Harper: they wish the Liberal Party to be destroyed, in order for the electorate to be polarized between the left and the right, with no party staking out the middle ground.

    Interesting enough, James Laxer posted something about this The NDP: In Need of Rehabilitation, except he argues that Liberal envy has caused the NDP to water down its socialism. In the end, they might eliminate the Liberals as Labour did the Liberals in the UK, but they’ll end up a lot like the party they hated in the first place (center-left or “sell-outs”).

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