So says ipolitics (pay wall), referring to the NDP surge that was confirmed this week by polls released by EKOS and by other groups. They go on to demonstrate that, while NDP numbers jumped dramatically with the recent Alberta provincial election results, the upsurge really began as early as February. What this graph (shown below) also shows is the NDP vote appears to be coming at the expense of both the Liberals and the Conservatives, indicating that they are benefiting both from disapproval of the performance of the government and uncertainty (or outright distrust) of the Liberal Party.
There are probably a hundred reasons for this, and I’d love to hear what others think. I will highlight two. First, the NDP have been aggressively announcing their platform in very frank and clear terms – $15/day daycare, home mail delivery, changes to income splitting, amendments to the first-past-the-post electoral system, and others. The Liberal strategy, conversely, has been to keep relatively quiet about their platform for now. Their only campaign-style announcement was their plan for daycare, but even with that came questions as to whether they had botched their own accounting of the costs. If the Liberal strategy is to keep their powder dry until the campaign is in full swing, they had better get their timing right or they might find themselves out of the discussion.
The second thing I can quickly put my finger on (and again, there are I’m sure many others) is the partys’ stands on Bill C-51. The Conservatives are trying to run the standard boogeyman strategy – keep the population scared and hope that they decide to cast their ballots on security issues. They peaked in popularity with the attack on Parliament Hill last year and see this as a strong issue for them. C-51 keeps security in the discussion, which is a good campaign strategy, however they may have misplayed their hand by making it too strong, and opening up the civil liberties argument. This is a place where the Liberals and NDP have starkly different stands – the Liberals voted in favour of the bill, saying that they will amend the more odious bits of it later should they win the election, while the NDP rejected it outright and said that should they come to power in October they will scrap it root and branch. Forum polling on the bill shows that Canadians are beginning to have reservations about it and are concerned about the civil liberties issues it represents and it may be that the NDP are being seen as their champions in this case.
I will leave this post with another graph from the ipolitics article, this one showing the vote distribution as it breaks down on income level (see below). It would usually be expected that right-leaning parties would do well in the higher income brackets and the left-leaning in the lower and so the basic shape of the distribution is unsurprising – the Conservatives dominate among the most wealthy and the left-leaning NDP among the poor.
This time around, the Conservatives have to be concerned with the results, as the groups they do well in are shrinking in size as a result of the well-documented wealth gap. Add to this the fact that they will have an uphill job fighting against the perception that they are the party of the rich, as the opposition parties and the media have done a good job showing how their taxation policies have preferentially benefited the wealthy and employment results keep showing troubling trends towards instability and lower wages. Also, their one real hope appeared to be to look like the responsible economic party, carrying a balanced budget proudly into the campaign. This has gone badly. Delaying the budget because of the economic situation seemed desperate at its face, and the “balance” was immediately questioned as it was created by fuzzy economic growth models and raiding the EI fund.
The results have to be a concern to the Liberals as well, as the NDP lead in the “lower class” demographic is massive and it represents a sadly large potential voting block. If the electorate is really going to make a choice this election on “left” versus “right” issues, the traditional Liberal place in the middle, which has made them the natural governing party for many years, might be a dangerous place indeed. They may find themselves forced to one side or the other during the campaign, and that will leave them with the job of convincing the electorate of sincerity of their intentions.
If this is a high-turnout election, which it often is when the public is unhappy with the performance of the incumbent governing party, and the NDP can mobilize their base, this election might not even be close.
It’s early days yet, but these are interesting signs.