Tag Archives: ndp

“Even Chris Tindal was participating!”

TVO's Steve Paikin used Twitter to report from the floor of the Ontario NDP leadership convention.

TVO's Steve Paikin used Twitter to report from the floor of the Ontario NDP leadership convention.

The Ontario NDP leadership race website reports that their online and social media coverage was so successful that “even Green Party activist Chris Tindal was participating in the discussion.” Yep, even me! (As you no doubt already know, I’m the prime indicator of success for stuff like this.)

In all seriousness, the provincial NDP’s interactive strategy for their leadership convention was very well conceived and executed. The coverage featured live video streaming, live blogs, and a Twitter feed that become one of the most active on all of Twitter during the leadership vote on Saturday evening. All this turned out to be essential due to the abysmal news coverage the convention itself received. (Like that Joe Trippi guy talks about: don’t get media, become the media.) From what I can tell, democratic wunderkind Dave Meslin was the driving force behind the whole thing, and both he and the party are to be commended.

Another positive indicator along the same vein is that Andrea Horwath, the new leader of the provincial NDP, had a very good (and probably the best) leadership campaign website. We can reasonably expect, therefore, that the NDP will have a strong interactive presence in the next general election.

This praise comes with two caveats from me. One is that the importance of a strong interactive strategy for Canadian political parties is, IMHO, currently overstated by many. (I am reminded of my favourite political quote of the year so far. While discussing ways to reach young voters, then-Republican chairman Mike Duncan said “We have to do it in the Facebook with the Twittering.” Priceless.)  The second is that while I sincerely wish Horwath the best of luck, I’m not convinced she was the best choice (I’m a Peter Tabuns fan), or that she has the right combination of ideas and rhetoric to move her party forward. More on both of those points later.

Villain 2008: Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition

Torontoist invited me to contribute to this year’s Heroes and Villains. Yesterday I shared my hero pick. Now here’s my villains submission.

Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition

Last year, Torontoist readers voted Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty, et al. the number one villain of the year. Since then, their governance has gotten even worse. Even if you sympathize with the Harper government’s policy objectives, it’s hard to support the way they’ve gone about accomplishing them. Despite expressing respect for the will of Parliament while in opposition, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have done everything they can to obstruct Parliament from functioning properly in a minority situation, to the point of breaking their own fixed election date law for pure political advantage. In other words, this government has given the opposition parties no shortage of fodder.

And yet that opposition has failed, repeatedly and consistently, to offer an alternative that catches the imagination of voters. The Liberal Party, for example, was specifically mocked for their reluctance to vote against the government (perhaps most memorably in a flashy Rick Mercer musical number). In the election that ultimately took place anyway the Liberals received their worst result in recent memory, while the New Democratic and Green parties also failed to make any significant inroads.

With such a vacuum of popular political options another smaller or newer political party might have found its niche (as Québec Solidaire recently did in the Quebec provincial election), but none of the nineteen registered Canadian political parties offered anything that caught the public’s attention.

This failure is mostly due to communication and political problems rather than policy ones. It’s not that the opposition parties haven’t had any good ideas—they have—but rather that they’ve been completely unsuccessful in communicating those ideas in a compelling way. This impotence was epitomized by the year-end coalition debacle, where the opposition leadership allowed perfectly legitimate and potentially exciting democratic cooperation to be successfully characterized by the prime minister as some kind of separatist coup.

As a result, the highly objectionable government of Stephen Harper has been allowed to continue to exist essentially without opposition. To be clear, only the Conservative government is responsible for their actions, but that doesn’t mean the opposition parties can be left off the hook for their failure to perform. No matter what party or ideology is in government, our democratic system relies on an effective opposition to function properly. Here’s hoping for better in 2009.

18% in Ontario, and Counting

As we approach election day on March 17th, some people I talk to want to be reassured that their vote is going to go towards a successful party with momentum. Well, it is.

The [federal] Green party, which has never elected an MP, rose to 13 per cent nationally and was actually a point ahead of the NDP in Ontario — 18-17.

This confirms the positive signs we’re witnessing every day, and there’s still two weeks to go. Interesting how Bruce chooses to editorialize:

Bruce Anderson, the president of Harris-Decima, says the Green support may simply reflect voters parking their support in the absence of compelling alternatives.

Or, you know, they’ve decided that we are a compelling alternative. Just maybe. (Also, my campaign manager Jeff points out that “parking” isn’t the best metaphor to use when describing Green voters, though there are admittedly precious few comparable biking or transit-related options.)

Greens Ahead Of NDP

Despite all of the standard disclaimers about why it’s a bad idea to pay attention to polls, it’s still notable that this Strategic Council poll (which has not traditionally had the Greens as high as some other polling companies) has the federal Green Party ahead of the NDP for the first time, with 13% to their 12%. Among other things, this is yet another argument that we need to be included in the next televised leaders’ debate. There’s also an argument to be made that this puts us in seat territory, since, as Jim Harris points out, the NDP elected 9 MPs in 1993 with only 6.88% of the vote.

One NDP blogger reacted to this news in the following way:

And I guess the near dead heat of the NDP and Greens shouldn’t go unacknowledged on an NDPers blog. To that I offer this, I greatly doubt the Green’s could sustain these numbers in a national election. However, it behooves the NDP to start giving some attention to a party that seems content on allowing the mis-conception that they are somehow equivalent to the NDP on the political spectrum.

To the first point, it’s true that in the past we’ve had difficultly pulling our vote out in numbers that some pollsters have predicted. That’s less true today, however, for two reasons. One, our party is better organized than it has ever been, with competent riding associations and experienced campaign managers establishing themselves in increasing numbers every day. That helps with the problem we’ve had of not “getting out the vote,” something the NDP excel at. Two, we’ve now passed a threshold of support where people consider us a serious party capable of electing MPs, as opposed to just a protest vote. That helps with the problem we’ve had of people entering the polling booth intending to vote green, but changing their mind at the last second for “strategic” reasons. If you don’t believe me, witness the results of the Ontario provincial election. Right up until polls closed bloggers and pollsters were predicting the provincial Greens would only pull 4%, maybe 6%. When the ballots were counted, however, we’d topped 8%, achieving the high numbers we’d been polling at.

To the second point, hopefully the author will be happy to learn that I am not content to allow any misconception that we “are somehow equivalent to the NDP on the political spectrum” to exist because, of course, we’re not. If we were, there’d be no point.

In fact, if people in general were under the impression that we were equivalent to the NDP, then it seems to me they’d be more likely to support the NDP for the oft repeated reason that “they have a better chance of winning.” (Note to any NDPers thinking of making this argument at my doorstep: if I wanted to blindly vote for the party with a good chance of winning, I’d vote Liberal.) No, quite the opposite is true: our support is as high as it is because people recognize that we are different from the NDP in many of the ways that we’re different from all of the status quo parties. (In short, and without trying to start a debate, we move beyond the old left/right spectrum and approach problems from a pragmatic, holistic perspective, while remaining the only party to acknowledge that there are limits to growth.)

Does that mean I’m cheering for the NDP’s demise, secretly hoping to wipe them off the map completely? Absolutely not. The NDP have a legitimate and important role to play in Canadian politics; I just can’t understand why they’re not playing it. If I were to offer some unsolicited advice, it would be as follows. Be true to yourselves. Stand up for traditionally “left wing,” socialist principals. Put away the focus groups and the talking points, the negative tone and the overly partisan rhetoric. Let Layton be Layton: think back to his excellent work as a city councilor in Toronto, when he was committed to getting things done instead of “getting things done,” if you get my meaning. That, in my opinion, is a recipe to get your supporters excited and believing in your party again.

Whatever you do, stop trying to become the new Liberal party. Please. We’ve got one of those already, we don’t need another one.