Canadian Party Politics – The NDP Convention

Or with the wrong candidate, it could be the beginning of the end. I never did meet Jack Layton, but I knew several people who did, including a couple of people who lived in his riding. Everyone described him as a really nice guy.

In the 2011 Federal Election the Nice Guy finished second.

Canadians are different. We like nice guys. A lot of New Democratic Party candidates managed to gain office with minimal campaign spending because of Jack Layton. None of the other three major party leaders can make that claim. Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe couldn’t even hold their own seats, a major embarrassment for the two, who ended up departing their posts.

The subsequent death of Jack Layton only months after the election shock up the country. There were a lot of questions raised as to whether the NDP could function without him at the helm. Jack was an experienced politician, having first served at the municipal level in 1982. He was a known factor.

When Jack asked Nycole Turmel to become interim leader when he needed to take time off to fight cancer, the response from most of us was Nycole who? Charlie Angus I know about. I’m involved in the music industry, and Charlie is a professional musician. If you watched the convention you may have seen him perform a rap on stage. I have relatives who live near Charlie. So I know about Charlie. Nycole? I have relatives who live in her riding, and they’d never heard of her.

News coverage was similar. Now one knew the woman. Of course this was summer, and nothing happens in Canadian Federal politics during the summer (a holdover from the days when most politicians were farmers).

Then Jack died, and in A letter to Canadians from the Honourable Jack Layton asked that Nycole be interim leader until new leader could be selected in the new year. A lot of us thought that this was an even worse mistake.

  1. Who was Nycole Turmel, and was she capable of running the NDP until the election?
  2. Why wait till spring? That would give the Conservatives six months to work without effective opposition in the House of Commons.

Much to everyone’s surprise Nycole performed well. She wasn’t a Jack Layton or an Ed Broadbent, but she was Nycole Turmel. She managed to run a party with a huge number of rookie members, and keep them on track, with the help of the core of experience politicians.

She got them to today’s leadership convention without any major problems, which means that they’ve probably learned the ropes by now. Sure, there was one defection. That will probably be taken care of in the next election. The electorate tends to take a dim view of politicians who cross the floor.

I’m watching the NDP leadership convention, even though I am not an NDP supporter – I’m a political junkie. I want to see how this plays out. The numbers for the second ballot have just been announced and Peggy Nash is out, leaving Cullen, Topp, and Mulcair.

Because this convention could be really important. I’m a Futurist. I roll dice with the future. Let’s look at a bunch of factors.

  • An aging (and dying population)
  • Lower voter turnout
  • Dramatic Liberal support drop in 2011
  • Dramatic NDP support gain in 2011
  • Minor Conservative support gain in 2011
  • Increased interest in politics among youth
  • A secularization of the population
  • A more educated population
  • A more connected population

When you toss all of this into the pot you end up with some interesting inferences, and even more interesting questions.

  • Did the gain for the Conservatives result from a belief in Conservative Party principles, or a distaste for Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals?
  • Can the NDP prove that they deserved the gain in support, and possibly even grow it further to gain a majority?
  • Can the Liberals regain the confidence of the electorate, i.e. be considered at least as the second place party instead of the NDP (or Conservatives) in the next election?
  • Will the higher level of connectivity result in a higher level of voter turnout, i.e. will the Facebook Generation truly become activist?
  • Will Youth, who are concerned with jobs, eduction, and where the country is going, actually take action at the voting booth, and who will manage to give them what they want?

The answers to those questions will drive voting patterns in Election 2015, and the future of the New Democratic Party.


Wayne Borean

Saturday March 24, 2012


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