One thing I like about John Degen’s arguments on this blog is that he is unapologetic about suggesting that the NDP position itself as a potential governing party. I’ve always disliked the NDP’s tendency to push itself as “the moral voice of Parliament” or other such nonsense, and I really don’t think there’s much reason to get into politics if it isn’t to win power.
But one week into The Election Buzz Hargrove Calls A Waste, and things are not looking good for the NDP. The party is sitting in the mid-teens in the polls, which will translate into something like 20-25 seats. A small advance over 2004, but not enough to give the party a solid claim to be kingmaker.
It surely hasn’t helped that Buzz Hargrove of the CAW has been telling everyone who will listen that they should vote Liberal (or Bloc, if they live in Quebec). As we learned in last week’s Maclean’s profile of Jack Layton, things are not exactly friendly between Layton and the CAW, but there is something to be said for solidarity, isn’t there?
But Layton’s big problem is not negative publicity, it’s no publicity. His big plan on PSE got totally ignored, as the Calgary Grit points out, as did pretty much everything else he said.
I don’t think this is simply attributable to understandable early-in-the-campaign struggling. It seems to me that the good things that the NDP stands for (and which are usually adopted by the Liberals as policy) are fading from public concern. Take electoral reform, which Layton once said was the sine qua non of his support. Voters in BC rejected STV, and in PEI they rejected MMP. As the Globe reported this weekend, voters are keen to get back to majority government, for which a FPP electoral system is more or less a requirement.
On fiscal issues, the two parties that Canadians actually vote for are both promising substantial tax cuts. On health care, Canadians seem to have finally come to the conclusion that,if $41 billion can’t fix the problem, then it is probably a) insuperable, and b) a provincial problem regardless, and not something the federal parties should continue to base single-issue campaigns around.
I believe it was Iona Campagnolo who once joked that Ed Broadbent was “the most popular political leader in Canada. [pause]. Between elections.”