Sunday, August 23, 2015

Election 2015: The NDP Have Come A Long Way, Baby

The NDP so far in this election are consistently leading in the polls; a feat that would have been unimaginable just 5 years ago, but here we are. The transformation of the party from a fringe, union backed, proudly socialist party to a more centre left, broad based and appealing alternative to the Conservatives happened seemingly overnight. As demonstrated by NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau who was not even in her riding in Quebec when she found out she'd won in the 2011 election, the pundits were not the only ones shocked by the sudden embrace the NDP were given in Quebec. But it was the result of a hard ground game, and tireless work, spearheaded by Tom Mulcair, at the time the deputy leader of the party and the first NDP MP from Quebec.

When Jack Layton would proudly declare at the beginning of an election that he was running for Prime Minister, people would think it a bit strange to say. Why would he say he was running for Prime Minister when his party only had a handful of seats in Parliament? The NDP was never considered a real serious contender to form government, and before 2011 the best result they'd ever had in Parliament was a mere 43 seats.

But there was an opening in Quebec in 2011, and they were able to seize it. Jack Layton's leadership was particularly appealing, and with the Bloc running a rather sub par and uninspired campaign, and the Liberals collapsing to near oblivion, Quebecers turned to the NDP. The so called "orange wave" signalled a dramatic shift in the political landscape of Canada. No longer would the NDP be just a fringe party, but the party that the brought Quebec back into the national conversation. Yet there was plenty of talk after 2011. People wondered, was this an anomaly? Would the NDP be able to hold on to Quebec seats if the Liberals were to regroup? Would there be a Bloc resurgence?  Not many seemed to believe that the level of support the NDP had would in remain, particularly after the loss of the motivating force that was Jack Layton.

At the time that Tom Mulcair became leader of the NDP, he began the long road to making the NDP a credible government in waiting. Part of this process was casting aside some of the more strongly socialist rhetoric, and taking the party to the centre; making the party reflect more closely his own views. Some would argue that this is a significant loss to the roots of the party, and makes them almost indistinguishable from the Liberals, but Canadians have always favoured the centre. Now the NDP will be fighting to grab those mushy middle voters that have traditionally voted Liberal, but they will not have the messy history of corruption of the other party, and may represent something entirely new to a public who are hungry for change.

The Alberta NDP win also seems to have stirred Canadians toward the NDP. If Albertans, the most Conservative of Canadians, can trust an NDP government, why not try it Federally? It seems that when people believe the NDP CAN win, they surge ahead. And there are no signs at this point of a dent in that lead.

If Jack Layton could see the plans which he had worked so hard for bear fruit to the extent they have since his passing, he would undoubtedly be proud. The NDP has come a long way, and Tom Mulcair has declared clearly that he wants to finish the work that Jack started in 2011. It increasingly looks like he may do just that.

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