Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Election Strategery: The NDP

With an election around the corner, I'll be previewing the election on a party by party basis this week. Specifically, what I feel the key tactics for each of the major parties (and the NDP) should be.

Today, we start off with those lovable losers, the New Democrats.


N...D...P...

The 2004 Campaign: Layton made some major gaffes early when he blamed Paul Martin for killing homeless people and mused that he'd tear up the Clarity Act (as an aside: even PMPM is on the Clarity bandwagon these days). Layton was accused by many of being too "chippy" in the debates and not appearing prime ministerial enough. Despite all this, his party found itself near 20% in the polls heading into the last weekend of the campaign. Then, NDP voters jumped in droves to the Liberals to "Stop Harper".

The Result: 19 Seats, 16% of the popular vote, and Layton barely beat Dennis Mills to win his own seat.

Since Then: Ask anyone, and they'll admit the Dippers have been the big winners of this Parliament. Layton has shown everyone that it's not size that matters, it's how you use it. Despite only 19 seats (now 18), he forced the Liberals to re-write their budget to suit his liking and is now controlling the timing of the next election. In addition, he's allowed the Tories to play "bad Cop" on Adscam, while he talks about the issues and "making Parliament work". He's looked like a Statesman, and has been consistently at 20% in the polls.

The Leader: Jack Layton. He's certainly the most highly respected of the three federalist chiefs. He's had a lot to learn during his time in Ottawa and seems to have come a long way over the past two years. He'd jumped straight from A-ball to the majors before the last election so he should perform better this time with the experience of 2004 under his belt.

The Team: Ed Broadbent won't be running again. And Bev Desjarlais in gone after losing her nomination (likely over her opposition to equal marriage). Apparently the NDP have actually recruited a few candidates with banking and/or economics backgrounds which is a small miracle in itself.

Unofficial Slogan: "Have you seen the other guys?"

Campaign Song: Nelly Furtado's Powerless.

The Issue: Jack used private health care to distance himself from the Liberals. This is a risky strategy since voters tend to flock to the Liberals when health care becomes the issue. Of course, if Jack can paint the Liberals and Tories with the same brush, it could be a winner.

Key Strategy: Above all else, the goal of the NDP this election should be to prevent their voters from bleeding to the Liberals in a "Stop Harper" movement. I did a rough calculation after the last election and the late rush to the Liberals likely cost the NDP around 13 seats. Because of this, Layton needs to bite his tongue and play nice with Stephen. Make it known that he could work with the Conservatives in a minority situation. Let it slip that you like Harper's ethics package and would back it. And, above all else, don't play into Martin's hands when the talk of private health care, abortion, and minority rights is brought up. I know the NDP is in a lot of tight races with the Tories, but voters on the ground don't realize this. So, when they want to stop Harper, they'll vote Liberal even if they're in a Tory/NDP riding where the Liberals have no chance in hell of winning.

Other Advice:
1. Don't forget the corruption issue.
2. Emphasize how your party tried to "make parliament work".
3. Look statesmanlike during debates. From all indication, there could be four debates this time, and with fewer candidates going door to door in the cold, the national campaign will take on greater importance.
4. Be frank about your prospects - you aren't going to win and everybody knows this. Be blunt about wanting to be the balance of power.
5. Watch out for the Green Party.

Prediction: I'll go into specific seat predictions later, but it's safe to say the NDP will finish somewhere from 20 to 30 seats. Expect some gains in Saskatchewan and BC.

19 Comments:

  • Agreed. Though i'd say runner up, or best gov't Canada ever had instead of the lovable losers.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:13 AM  

  • In BC and Sask, traditional NDP strongholds, the battle has always been not between Liberals and NDP, but rather between NDP and Conservatives. In this regards 1988 and 1993 are very telling. In 1988 the NDP took BC with 19 seats. In 1993 they reduced to 3 seats. If memory serves me right they lost all 16 seats to the Reform party.

    2004 was no different. Whatever gains the NDP made came at the expense of the Conservatives (2 pick ups) and and whatever gains the Liberals made came at the expense of the Conservatives (1 pick up). (A number of ridings changed shape and several more where added. This accounts for the other gains.)

    In terms of the popular vote, the Liberals were pretty much the same in 2000 as in 2004. The difference was that they made some inroads in certain Vancouver ridings. It appears that these inroads were made up entirely of former Torry voters voting Liberal. In Vancouver Quadra, Burnaby, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Liberal support was what they had in 2000 plus what the Torries had in 2000. Liberal support in North Vancouver, for example, in 2000 was 32.5% and Torry support 7% In 2004 Liberal support was 40%. In Vancouver Quardra it was 43.8 and 9.4. In 2004 it was 52.4.

    This time around things will be no different. If the NDP make a break through in BC it will be at the expense of the Conservatives and not the Liberals.

    Conservative NDP battle ground ridings.

    1)Nanaimo Alberni,

    2)Vancouver Island North,

    3)British Columbia Southern Interior,

    4)Pitt Meadows Maple Ridge Mission,

    5)Surrey North,

    6)New Westminster-Coquitlam.

    By Anonymous koby, at 5:08 AM  

  • it's safe to say the NDP will finish somewhere from 20 to 30 seats.

    My goodness. I sure hope you're right about that.

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 10:05 AM  

  • Koby: bang on.

    Also, if Jack wants votes, he should attack Martin on Quebec healthcare. Hell, Jack can point to *Klein* yesterday attacking Martin on Quebec healthcare. He must take away the "stop Harper" wedge to get seats. And, so what if that results in a Harper minority - in such a scenario the NDP would have oodles of clout and with three progressive parties in opposition policy would be red red red tory. In the extreme, he should prepare to take away the SSM issue from the Libs as well by a. poo-pooing the "Harper will repeal it" notion on legal grounds (n.b. Harper has a tricky academic legal argument not involving s. 33 that makes it possible in theory, but *never* politically) and b. immediately attacking the Libs on something else i.e. Canada Steamships and the environment, *unprincipled* spending/tax cuts, healthcare, and corruption.

    Jack also needs to go to the Stephen Harper school of tv debating: be calm and cool to soften his edges (note that I'm not saying it worked for Harper, but that it will work for Jack - Harper has to go to the Mulroney school of debating).

    By Blogger matt, at 11:09 AM  

  • Hmmmm... prediction: NDP becomes the official opposition with a Conservative minority government. If Jack can pull off the "Harps ain't a bad chap" routine then the Grits lose their most useful weapon. I really think that a combination of very motivated Anyone But The Liberals voters and Liberal voter apathy (especially in Ontario) could do the trick on election day. You may now all scream at me... (remember the PC's?)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:19 PM  

  • The NDP could have the best and the worst of worlds. The best, in that they are likely to pick up a few seats at the expense of the Liberals. The worst, in that the tories are likely to pick up a pile of seats at the expense of the Liberals, forming forming a stable coalition with the Bloc.

    Its not very far fetched. After all, right now the Bloc and Tories are within 3 seats of that point right now. And while their policies are not very compatable on the larger scale, they are very compatible in their willingness to let the provinces do what they like with health care, education, and federal transfer payments.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:48 PM  

  • The NDP have to be licking their chops. Witht he Liberal Party completely abandoning Liberalism and trying to fight the CP as a conservative alternative????? that leaves Jack! to have his way with the left. Your points are well made that Jack! needs to focus on the Liberal Party and how its failure to Liberalism.
    The Liberal party has no direction and no soul. It is a ship without a sail who moves in the direction of the last wave to hit it. Quite sad really.

    By Anonymous NorthBayTrapper, at 1:26 PM  

  • The NDP would have had 30 seats in the last election had NDP liberals not voted Liberal to keep out Scary Harper.

    If Layton can convince the NDP voter that staying NDP makes sure that NDP issues get heard, be they in a Conservative or Liberal government, he has a great chance to improve on his power broker status.

    So yes, like I say in my own blog, Layton must focus 100% on Martin and Liberal sleaze and arrogance, and not even remind people that Harper exists except in ways that work, cleaning up government and perhaps looking after the little guy.

    By Blogger Michael, at 4:13 PM  

  • The NDP's best hope is to merge with the communist party of Canada to bring out their true messages:

    Government control of the economy, education, food supplies, etc.

    Raise taxes, and redstribute to each according to need, not ability. The only reason the NDP is more valid than the Libs is because they promise to steal from the rich and give to the poor, while the Libs steal from the rich and just keep it for themselves.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:45 PM  

  • Very accurate take on the NDP, thanks for putting it together.

    I really wonder if someone on the inside with the NDP reads your blog, if not they should! The strategy as laid out is brilliant, really interested to see what they are going to do this time around. Play it smart I hope.

    By Anonymous Anne (mad in Ontario), at 5:59 PM  

  • Koby:

    I know you like to promote the "vote Liberal to stop Harper" banner to our NDP brethren.. but if this poll recently released in BC is accurate.. NDP gains there have come entirely at the expense of the Liberals, while the Tories are mired in a distant 3rd.

    I suspect you will see big NDP gains in BC this election.

    By Blogger Scott Tribe, at 10:57 PM  

  • With regards to these six ridings below I will be promoting the vote NDP stop Harper banner

    1)Nanaimo Alberni,

    2)Vancouver Island North,

    3)British Columbia Southern Interior,

    4)Pitt Meadows Maple Ridge Mission,

    5)Surrey North,

    6)New Westminster-Coquitlam.

    With regard to other ridings(e.g., North and West Vancouver), I will be promoting the vote Liberal stop Harper banner. In bastions of backwardness (Conservative sure things) people should vote their conscience.

    All that being said, I stand by what I said. Also what I said had nothing to do with my vote to keep Harper out message. Indeed, however much NDP voters may want it otherwise there is little evidence to suggest that Martin's June 25 speech cost the NDP dearly in BC.

    What people in other parts of the country have to understand is that BC is a protest province and has been for a long time. Traditionally, the NDP were the protest party of choice. However, from 1993 to 2000 Reform was. The NDP went from having 38% of the popular vote in 1988 to I believe 18% in 1993.

    One of the reasons for the Conservative drop was that the party lost its protest status. The other reason is that social issues have started to play a much larger role. This has spilt Vancouver off from the rest of the mainland. From the internal polling done on SSM in the city that I am aware of, Vancouverites solidly backed SSM. In North Vancouver for example it was 70%.

    It would be foolish of the NDP to attack only the Liberals. What they should do is try to foster disgust in both the Conservatives and Liberal parties. They should also encourage a major offensive by the provincial NDP during the election. Provincial politics matter a lot. As a result of the unpopularity of the provincial NDP, the Federal NDP suffered greatly in the 1997. During the 2004 election the Federal Liberals were hurt by the unpopularity of the provincial Liberals and they are in no way connected. The drop in Liberal support in BC recently also corresponds pretty well with some controversial measures taken by the BC Liberals (e.g., imposing a contract on the teachers.) The public backed the teachers 58 42.

    By Anonymous koby, at 5:20 AM  

  • The NDP has a different ideology, but occupies the same sort of tactical position in Canadian politics as the Liberal Democrats do in the UK.

    A line of attack the Liberal Democrats have sometimes found useful is to do a poster with the other party leaders and a question "which twin is the Tory"?

    I would have thought this was something the NDP could say plausibly of a right wing Liberal like Paul Martin. Counteract the vote Liberal to stop Harper line by arguing Martin is the same as Harper.

    By Anonymous Gary J, at 7:42 AM  

  • "A line of attack the Liberal Democrats have sometimes found useful is to do a poster with the other party leaders and a question "which twin is the Tory"?

    I would have thought this was something the NDP could say plausibly of a right wing Liberal like Paul Martin."


    The Liberals have certainly made this line of attack easier by annoucing major tax cuts. That said, the Liberals kept Canada out of Iraq and Conservatives wanted to go in and the Liberals tabled Bill 38 and the Conservatives opposed it. However, shallow one might think it, these two issues have come to define the parties in no small measure. As such, it is better that a different tract be used. The whole Grewal affair was made for the NDP. The Conservatives looked terrible and the Liberals hardly came off smelling like a rose. The NDP should take good look at the job Gordan Wilson did in the 1991 provincial election, particularly during the debate.

    By Anonymous koby, at 3:15 PM  

  • These comments are lost in the small politics of BC, instead of national politics.

    The NDP need to take a 3 election strategy nationwide. This election, the main thing the NDP needs to fear is a Liberal majority. Their focus has to be on stopping the Liberals everywhere, even in BC, even if Conservatives get elected.

    As an outcome of that strategy, we could see a repeat of the 1993 election with the Liberals the victim this time out. The 3 opposition parties could mortally wound the Liberals if they work together. What would NDPers achieve by stopping Harper? They and the Bloc, both social democrats, will hold the balance of power in the next parliament. However, a bankrupted, morally discredited, 4th place Liberal party and leader could transform the NDP to the governing alternative on the Left.

    We can count on another election sometime before 2008. NDP need to lay the groundwork for that now. To do so, they have be a contender in urban & northern Ontario this election. They could easily pick up 10 seats more seats here this election. If so, then there will be many more Ontario seats available for the next election.
    This can only happen by playing nice with the Conservatives this election.

    By Anonymous PlaidShirt, at 4:10 PM  

  • Anyone have any thoughts on what seats in Saskatchewan may go NDP? I think that any of the Regina seats could swing that direction, except Ralphie's. As well, a good NDPer in Saskatoon Humboldt could make the difference in tking out that moron Brad Trost.
    John Murney at www.johnmurneysblog.blogspot.com may have some interesting thoughts, as well.

    By Blogger tobefair, at 4:14 PM  

  • The NDP have a chance to take Regina Qu' Appelle, Palliser, Regina Lumsden Lake Centre and Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar away from the Consevatives. In each case they finished a close second with the Liberals bringing up the rear.

    I think that tool Trost is safe. He was in a tight three way race. However, that was only because uber idiot and conservative Jim Pankew took nearly 6000 votes. Most of those voters will go to Trost.

    By Anonymous koby, at 4:43 PM  

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