(crossposted to CanadaEast)
It is no secret that our NDP is in bad shape. After winning 10% of the vote and seats in 5 of 6 consecutive elections from 1982 through 2003, they were shut out in 2006 and saw their vote fall to an almost all time low of 5.1%.
This weekend the New Democrats meet to pick a leader, but regardless of who wins, it may be too late for our social democratic party. A very scary lesson should be learned for the NDP by looking at the results of the Ontario election last night.
Though it was actually a good night for the NDP; they had their best popular vote showing since 1995 and increased their share of seats from 7 to 10 versus the last election. However, that was the result received by a relatively strong and vibrant NDP. The real story of the night was the growth of the Green Party. The Greens won only 2.8% of the vote in 2003 and surged to over 8%. Moreover, they placed second in one riding, ahead of the Liberals and NDP and most notably, displaced the NDP as third party in 17 more ridings and ahead of the Tories for third in another.
That is to say that, in a province where the NDP formed the government as recently as 12 years ago, where the NDP has an established base of support and organization and was going into the election with 10 seats, the Green Party still managed to triple its vote and beat the NDP in 18 ridings (of 107, that is 17%, almost 1 out of 5). Especially interesting is that both the NDP and the Greens gained support, while the Liberals and Tories faltered. Thus, even if the NDP gets its act together and doesn't bleed support to the Green Party, they risk being overtaken anyway.
Today, there is no Green Party in New Brunswick. However, the organizers of the federal Green campaigns here indicated last fall they would have a party together and field a full slate of candidates in the next election. Whether or not that will be true remains to be seen, but, if it is, it is not hard to imagine the Greens doing as well in New Brunswick in 2010 as they did in Ontario in 2007.
The results for the Green Party in New Brunswick in the 2004 election was 3.4% and in 2006 was 2.4%; an average of 2.9% which is better than the base of 2.8% the Ontario Greens brought out of the 2003 provincial election.
So, back to the primary subject at hand: this weekend, the New Brunswick NDP are choosing a leader. What can they do to prevent disaster?
Ironically, in my view, it is to not vote for the best choice. I am a big fan of Dennis Atchison who is a moderate in the mould of Robert Chisholm who took Alexa McDonough's perpetual third party Nova Scotia NDP and turned it in to a contender for government in one election cycle. Theoretically, that is the best candidate for the NDP to choose. However, this is a bit of a unique circumstance. If this was 2005, then I think the NDP could be on the cusp of a breakthrough if they had someone like Atchison at the helm. But, the NDP chose to forfeit that opportunity, chose an unpalatable leader and crashed and burned. From the ashes, especially with the risk of losing their status as the third option, the NDP must choose the candidate that can prevent that from happening.
Could the Greens beat the NDP in the popular vote in 2010? Most definitely. But the one thing that the Greens are unlikely to do is elect an MLA. Roger Duguay, who has run with good success three times, could, as leader, win his riding. He got 26% of the vote in a three way race in 2006 and that was with the party suffering its worst defeat in 32 years. Should he be the leader and should the NDP run even a marginally better campaign, I think he would be the favourite in his home riding.
Therefore, if the NDP wants to avoid being displaced by the Greens, Duguay must be their choice.