Of all opposition parties, the NDP probably has the most momentum moving into a campaign. Yet it was widely viewed as running a largely successful campaign in 2019—only to lose seats.
Much like in 2015, the federal party is benefitting from the strong performances of its provincial cousins, in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. In Ottawa, the party has successfully helped to broker deals with the government, even forcing it to relent to more generous financial relief measures for Canadians made vulnerable by COVID-19.
The challenge for the NDP continues to be the fact that the Liberal government has had a strong grasp of its traditional constituency for the better part of six years. Unions, eco-friendly city dwellers, young Canadian, visible minorities, LGBTQ2+ communities and women have largely embraced Trudeau’s “sunny ways,” which hurts the NDP’s prospects for growth. The PM has frankly owned the centre-left voting block since 2015, with no indication of weakening support to date.
The next election constitutes an opportunity for the NDP to:
Win back progressive voters with a focus on Ontario and British Columbia
New Democrats have been fuming watching Justin Trudeau emerge as the face of Canadian progressive politics, despite his privileged upbringing and connections with the elite. They have been quick to point out the many instances where Justin Trudeau’s values were exposed: his falling-out with female MPs (Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott, Celina Caesar-Chavannes) and the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, to cite examples. They hope to capitalize on these inconsistencies.
Impose new sets of values
From the decolonization of Canadian government to the fight against systemic racism, the NDP defends the idea that Canada has systemically oppressed various groups and must change to allow victims and descendants to heal and a new society to emerge.
Mobilize young voters
Armed with the most charismatic federal leader, the NDP is probably the best equipped to convince young voters, the segment traditionally most apathetic to politics, that they don’t have to settle for old, traditional parties.
New Democratic Party's strengths
- Jagmeet Singh: The most charismatic leader in Canadian politics, regularly presented as the most honest and compassionate federal politician.
- Ideology: Most of the NDP’s traditional issues (affordability, housing, healthcare, climate change) are now top-of-mind to most Canadians.
- Values: The NDP’s morals and ethics have always stayed consistent, at a time where Canadians often question the true motives of politicians.
New Democratic Party's challenges
- Ground game: The Party’s coffers are almost empty. Moreover, it has struggled to attract star candidates, even amongst recently defeated former MPs. While the 2011 “Orange Wave” was not the result of the party’s organizational success, this could prove detrimental in close local races.
- Duplication: The Liberals have been more firmly planted on the left side of the political spectrum. It will prove difficult for the NDP to make the case that the LPC did not go far enough when most of its natural voters have been satisfied by the actions of Team Trudeau.
X-factor for the New Democratic Party
- Debates: Jagmeet Singh’s performance will have a significant impact on his party’s eventual results.
——— Tiéoulé Traoré is a former Director, Government Relations at NATIONAL Public Relations