NDP MP Pat Martin says his party must make significant gains in the next federal election or be forced to admit it may never be anything more than a fringe player and end its 46-year existence. Despite a recent rise in fortunes for the NDP, the Winnipeg MP admitted his party has led a tenuous existence, allowing bold policies -- such as calling for free first degrees for college and university students -- to be hidden behind timid language. "So, the result has been to bore people into some kind of a stupor where nobody has any idea what we stand for anymore." A poor electoral result could leave the NDP with few options, Mr. Martin said, including, in the case of a minority government, a merger or coalition with the Liberals.As I wrote back in December, I don't think the NDP are doing very well at all. Layton was lauded for his "success" of winning 19 seats in 2004 and 29 seats in 2006. However, Alexa McDonough was considered a lackluster leader when she won 21 seats in 1997. That is 21 seats out of 301, while Layton's best has been 29 out of 308 very marginally better.
I tend to blame the NDP's failure on Layton's all style, no substance appraoch but Martin seems to be saying the NDP needs to be bold in presenting its alternative positions rather than timid in fear of appearing too far to the left. He may be right, I am not sure.
The fact remains that the NDP has won seats in every province in Canada except for PEI. Yes, that includes in Quebec and in Alberta. Since 1979, they have represented 76 different ridings. Historical trends show that 2004 and 2006 were "perfect storm" scenarios for NDP gains, yet they managed to return only to their average rather than to the top tier of election results.
Everyone knows that Jack Layton is no Ed Broadbent, but the NDP has been shut out of Saskatchewan two elections in a row while Saskatchewan, as recently as 1997, housed over half of the federal NDP caucus. There is a complete disconnect between the NDP and its traditional supporters and base. The NDP of Jack Layton has one base: bleeding hearted silverspooned socialists and acedemics from urban centres. However, history has proved over and over that these are finnicky voters. They will jump to the Liberals - and have in the past - when the electoral situation is one that could see the Liberals take power in place of the Conservatives. It is these elections which kill the NDP and cut it back to its rural agrarian base. Oh wait, they don't have one anymore. Thanks Jack!
If the NDP don't come up with some bold ideas, it is only a matter of time until they are completely wiped out by a good Liberal election year. I thought that the NDP would be done in the next election but Dion's missteps and seeming inability to connect with voters may have been the NDP's reprieve, but it is only a temporary one.
The NDP, though a party I have never voted for and would not want to take power, has served a very useful purpose in being the conscience for parliament and the incubator of some of Canada's best progressive social programs. I do not want to see it die, but it is in dire straights.
New Democrats should be encouraged that one of their MPs is willing to admit this and they should act.