Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wither the New Brunswick NDP?

(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.


nbpolitico said...

In case anyone was wondering, here are the ridings where the Greens faired better than fourth:

Ahead of the PCs and NDP
Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound

Ahead of NDP
Carleton--Mississippi Mills
Don Valley West
Mississauga--Brampton South
Niagara Falls
Simcoe North
Wellington--Halton Hills

Ahead of PC

mikel said...

New Brunswick and Ontario are two completely different 'countries'. They can hardly even be compared.

For the NDP in New Brunswick, again, I hate repeating myself but if you look at the NDP in the last election, a big drop was clearly the result of not having seven candidates in ridings, and many others not campaigning at all. Their website wasn't even functional for the first two weeks.

And again, the NDP vote went UP in ridings where you'd assume that the 'unpalatable' leader would be the big issue-northern ridings and rural ridings. I can't remember who it was, but somebody was makign a point that somehow its really important in Saint John to be bilingual and yet people don't care in Edmonstun.

The one place it makes SOME sense is in Moncton, where the vote went down. However, its just as likely that Saint Johners liked having an NDP leader from blue collar Saint John rather than an activist from Fredericton.

Since neither of the two new guys are from Saint John that still holds, and since one guys french is only just passable then that would hold too.

In the end, there is virtually nothing the NDP can 'do' to change reality. I get a kick out of some pundits claiming ' a good leader with good local candidates' is the 'answer'. Hell, they couldn't even FIND candidates in almost ten percent of the ridings, if they could FIND good local candidates one would assume they would have tried them years ago.

mikel said...

Oh yeah, has anybody even HEARD from the Greens since they made the announcement a year ago? I think they have one guy who sometimes writes letters to the editor. The party still has no links to New Brunswick, and given that one person can make a website, its odd that there isn't even a web presence for them.

Abdul-Rahim said...

"New Brunswick and Ontario are two completely different 'countries'. They can hardly even be compared.". Watching the Ontario Election night coverage on RDI last night, and hearing about the NDPs failing there, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the success of the NDP in the two other francophone parts of the country, NB and Eastern ONtario, and how the NDP is recieved by Francophones. COuld you offer any insite into how popular they are with the Acadian community?

nbpolitico said...

mikel - the comparison is between the Greens going from no where to somehwere, and it is a risk worth evaluating. As for the NDP results, if you adjust them for their lack of candidates in seven ridings, it only moves up to 5.8% (from 5.1) and it is still the worst result since 1974, when, by the way, they didn't have a full slate either.

In every election you are going to go up some in some ridings and down some in others, but overall, the NDP went WAY down in 2006 whether they had a full slate or not.

As for the Greens, they have indeed fallen silent, that's why I stressed that it isn't a certainty that this will happen, but they did get 10 candidates for each of the past two federal elections, so they obviously have some reach to get names on the ballot and the Ontario Greens went from nowhere to somewhere in four years with three viable parties competing, if the NDP isn't viable then it will be all that much easier.

Abdul-Rahim - that is a difficult question to answer. The NDP have only won two seats federally in New Brunswick and they were both Acadian ridings. However, they have only one three seats provincially and they were all Anglophone ridings. When the NDP has had success in New Brunswick it has been when they've had strong local candidates or the other two parties were on the wrong side of an issue.

Paul said...

As someone who lives up here in the north with the Acadians, and also living in Yvon Godin's riding, the NDP MP for Acadie-Bathurst, I will respond to Abdul-Rahim's question.

The Acadians have proven to be pragmatic voters, with enough push either way to stay with the governing party, provincially. Read Jacques Poitras book on Bernard Lord and you'll see how Hatefield won favour in the Acadian community. They understand effective change comes from within.

They traditionally vote Liberal federally, but Doug Young lost on a Employment Insurance backlash and Yvon was the benefeciary. Turns out he is a very capable politician, and had he not been he would have been tossed long ago. I have heard it said quite often..."Too bad he's not a LIberal".

In this minority situation, it works to the Acadians advantage. The Conservatives would rather have a NDP to a Liberal, so you look after the NDP guy and his constituency issues. As soon as the Federal Liberals come on strong again, if they ever do, they will vote Liberal again.

As to why NDP have no traction up here provincially, because they have no chance of winning power provincially.

On the upside, In my riding the NDP got 8% of the popular vote, and all the candidate did was put up posters, was from Saint one actually knew him or met him....and he got 8% of the me that's a pretty good starting point. 8% for nothing.


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