Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Federal byelection has good signs for Conservatives and Liberals, but not NDP

Byelections rarely hold any wider political significance — one held in the reliably Conservative stronghold of southern Alberta doubly so. But Monday night's results in the Medicine Hat–Cardston–Warner federal byelection do provide some signals as to the states of the federal parties: resilience for the Conservatives, popularity for the Liberals, and deep malaise for the NDP.

The byelection, called to replace a vacancy following the death of Conservative MP Jim Hillyer earlier this year, was easily won by the incumbent party. And the Conservatives rightly deserve recognition for their creditable win.

You can read the rest of this article here.


  1. The NDP has quite simply lost their constituency. There was a time when the CCF-NDP were the party of the workingman they campaigned to have workers unionised. It was a movement: The Labour Movement! They stood up for the little guy. As the proportion of unionised workers has declined amongst the general workforce so does the need and purpose of a party such as the NDP. It is certainly an existential question for Dippers but, the solution if obvious should be reassuring; renew, the Labour Movement! Campaign for union benefits for all workers. Help workers unionise at big corporations such as; McDonald's, Starbucks and Shoppers Drug Mart. They need less lawyers like Mulcair and more advocates on the street. It will not be easy but, it may be the only way to make the NDP relevant once more.

    1. I really think this is exactly what they should be doing...but I have a feeling its not what they will end up doing. Far too much effort seems to be spent wanting to fight ideological battles around pipelines and social issues rather than organizing labour.

    2. I don't think the NDP has the resources or influence to single-handedly revive the union movement in Canada, which has shrunk due to long-term changes in the economy and society.

      Even in the 1960s when the unions were stronger, the NDP was always seen as a coalition of farmers and CCF supporters, unionized workers, public sector employees, students, the peace movement, environmentalists etc. A purely union-based party would never had had enough support even to achieve the modest support that the federal NDP has achieved over the years.

      The federal NDP doesn't need to organize labour; it needs to organize itself. The Conservatives and Liberals are much too centralized but the NDP has the opposite problem: no discipline at all. If an NDP MP doesn't agree with the party line, they publicly denounce and join the Liberals or Bloc or form their own fringe party. The members overthrew their leader with no replacement after he led them to 44 seats which, by NDP standards, is fantastic.

      Sure, Mulcair made some rookie mistakes on the campaign trail, but no worse than Harper's 2004 campaign where he blew a chance at power, only to come back two years later having learned from his mistakes. If the NDP were smart, all their leaders would send Mulcair a nice bouquet with a card saying "We're sorry, can you please come back?" Otherwise, they are heading for a 2019 setback of Audrey McLaughlin proportions, and Trudeau will be prime minister for life.

    3. I agree I don't think the NDP can revive the Labour movement single-handedly but, its focus should always be on workers, their living conditions, benefits, wages, including a perception of "economic fairness". At the end of the day a party that is able to govern will need a far greater electoral coalition than simply the Labour movement but you have to start somewhere-go with a strategy that has shown success in the past!

      France and Germany have far more robust Labour movements than Canada and they also elect socialist governments or in the case of France sometimes a socialist president. Just like the Labour Movement in the nineteenth-twentieth century a renewed NDP lead Labour Movement is a multi-decade even multi-generational strategy. That is the plight of the NDP; they are essentially starting from scratch.

      A quick blurb on Mulcair: I think the dye cast for old Mully. I don't think he wants the job anymore. Losing the leadership broke his heart, you can see it in his eyes on camera-a sadness. So as good as that strategy may be, Peter Julian is likely to become the next NDP leader.

    4. One final opinion on NDP rebuilding. To be successful the NDP must be able to tie the importance of a strong middle class with the Labour Movement or at least its policies: living wage, health benefits, pensions etc...

  2. I wonder what Ottawa-Vanier will show ?

    1. It should be a safe Liberal seat, Tories finishing second and Dippers third.

      I am surprised at how unconcerned Dippers are to their plight. Maybe we're too far out from an election to care but, considering the lack of interest in the NDP leadership race, the battering the party took provincially in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and their very marginal even notional lead in British Columbia alarms should be going off-unless of course they've already thrown in the towel.

    2. it appears at the last election the Dippers finished second and the Tories third. The Liberals have held the seat since its founding and held its predecessor, Ottawa East, for the entire duration of the riding until its amalgamation into Ottawa-Vanier.

      So, all things being equal, the Tories and Dippers have about an equal chance finishing second.

      Taking current polls into account however, the Dippers can expect to come third. Except-the whole Phoenix scandal-where some 70,000 plus civil servants have not been paid in some months. This provides great fodder for the NDP if they can get their act together and mount a serious campaign! The NDP has had success next door in Ottawa Centre and although Vanier is one of the safest Liberal seat in Ontario, the whole Phoenix pay system fiasco could with the right candidate and campaign at least make the by-election competitive.

  3. If the NDP (federal and provincial) had a dollar for every time the media pronounced them dead and gone, they would never need to fundraise again.

    I have a feeling there will be more NDP leadership contenders as the vote approaches, it's just that no one wants to jump in right now because they know they will get forcibly ignored in favour of the Trudeau news-of-the-day.

    There is a continually reinforced narrative that the NDP aren't worth listening to because "they never win", which naturally depresses their polling numbers which leads to more pronouncements of the same. Conversely, it was the win in Alberta in early 2015 that sent the federal NDP briefly into the lead, because people's ingrained expectations had finally been broken. Then the federal election came along in October and the NDP mishandled their campaign to just play back into those expectations once again.

    1. Does the perception they can't win decrease poll numbers or do low poll numbers decrease the perception they can win?

      I think the latter while you the former. The NDP-CCF has always been the most marginal of national parties. Although at the moment only the Liberals with seats in every region can be considered truly national for the second consecutive election holds seats in every region, except the Atlantic, just as the Tories.

      The NDP remains the third party in Canadian politics because of their policies not unfavourable or biased media attention. Take the Senate. Since, 1933 the NDP-CCF position has been one of abolition. In a country where one province nearly always elects the Government (Ontario) some counter-balance is a good idea. Senate reform has been a popular idea among English Canada for the better part of four decades even with the myriad of troubles senators get themselves into.

      Young Trudeau has entered into a program of quasi-reform toward the Senate. It is more smoke and mirrors than actual change to be sure but, from most accounts it is far more popular than abolition and whatever the end result the interim reports are favourable for the Senate, the prime minister and Liberal party. For a party that has advocated PR for decades a Senate reform policy incorporating PR could have paid impressive dividends and it could have been accomplished with minor non-constitutional change by following the example of Alberta and Saskatchewan (places where the NDP used to win seats). Or take the carbon tax in BC that the BC NDP campaigned against not because it was bad policy but due to it being proposed by the BC Liberals and Gordon Campbell-talk about petty! Or the two referenda on electoral reform in BC when the NDP remained neutral. I can not think of a single NDP policy I find appealing.

      The NDP currently has a number of deficits their policy-ideas deficit is the most serious. Governments usually defeat themselves but most people still need a reason to vote for a particular party or candidate.

    2. I would contend that when fighting for continued existence/relevance, rule number one is: challenge all assumptions. From Eric’s September polling update, the NDP are at risk of falling behind the BQ in seat count or even being seatless under FPTP. Together BQ/NDP/Green have a range of 0-6. Part of the larger vulnerability of the NDP in the last election was the reaction of Quebec to the Niqab Controversy. PR would give them seats in every region, which might allow them to grow their base to a coalition of voters large enough to form government.

      I personally don’t think the NDP are down and out permanently, just as the Liberals weren’t after the last decade. However, they are much closer to danger as they never reached equal highs of popularity. Focusing on the seats that you have reminds me of the PC strategy when fighting for conservative votes with Reform/Alliance.

    3. The NDP will never grow their coalition large enough to form Government if they remain the third party. PR keeps them as the third party, AV keeps them as the third party. Only FPTP with its ability to "kick the bums out" has the potential to vault the NDP into Official Opposition or Government. For the NDP to "win" they need to defeat the Liberals!

    4. As an addendum: FPTP and the NDP conform to your first rule: Challenge all assumptions. As you can see from your own writing we are in agreement! :)

    5. The NDP only became the Official Opposition with a complete collapse of the Liberal vote. Under a PR system, you would be much more likely to see NDP-Liberal cooperation in a minority setting. If they can make and deliver on campaign promises, then they can begin to convince the nation that they are ready to lead. They are in the same seat as the Lib Dems, their vote continually outsizes their results.

    6. Mapleson,

      You see by your own writing you don't want the NDP to win. You want the Liberal party to win so that the NDP can tag along. "NDP-Liberal cooperation in a minority setting". We have seen over the course of a number of recent minority governments how little of the NDP campaign promises Liberals invest in. There are two major flaws in your logic: First, there is no guarantee the minority setting will be favourable to the NDP. It may be favourable to the Tories or the Liberals. Either may decide to govern alone or with a party other than the NDP. Secondly, I refer you to your first rule for continued existence; "challenge all assumptions". We do not know how voters will react (vote) under a new system. Under PR brokerage parties may cease to exist replaced by single issue groupings. Or the Green Party may leap frog the NDP in seat count and popular vote.

      The common assumption regarding the NDP; they would do better under a form of proportional representation. I challenge that assumption by writing the NDP is better off with FPTP. You conform to the assumption and break your own first rule by supporting PR and minority rule with the Liberals. I am left unconvinced you wish the NDP to succeed, from your writing it appears you want to make it easier for the Liberal party to win by producing an environment more conducive for Liberals to form Government.

      Finally, if they (NDP) are in the same spot as the Liberal Democrats in the UK we see why they should not follow this path you suggest. The Lib-Dems were punished by voters even while the Government was re-elected in May 2015. The Lib-Dems secured 8% of the vote and 8 seats at the polls last year which is about where the NDP would be today if an election were called.

    7. The Lib-Dems were punished because of what they allowed to happen as the junior member of a Conservative coalition. We won't know what would have been the outcome of a more traditional Lib-Lab deal. The Lib Dems had nearly twice the vote as the SNP (7.9% vs 4.7%) but 1/7th of the seats. The system punished the Lib-Dems as much as the voters did.

      It isn't that I "don't want the NDP to win"; it is that I view a minority situation with the NDP at least holding the balance of power as most plausible at least as a transition. When the NDP are leading nationally, they have the CPC on the right and possibly the LPC on the left to contend with, both of whom have deeper voting pools (6.9M LPC, 5.8M CPC, 4.5M NDP). I was thinking more of the lines of how Bob Rae's NDP came to power in 1990 after supporting Peterson the the OLP.

      You aren't "challenging the assumption", you are stating an opinion without any evidence. The NDP vote is very inefficient in many areas, specifically Ontario. A good showing in Ontario is generally needed to win nationally. BC is the closest we have to a three-way split. AB/SK are the Conservative seat of power with MB a bit more elastic. The Maritimes are the Liberals strength. Even in 2011, they won 11 of 32 seats (10 of 22 excluding NB). Quebec completely depends on how the BQ are doing (490K votes was the difference between winning 49 seats and 4 seats).

      If my goal was just an easier Liberal victory, I would suggest AV as the system, which would help the LPC more then the NDP. However, the preponderance of evidence suggests PR. Using the 2011 results under Eric's PR system (with all the caveats about FPTP voting patterns under a different system), the NDP would have 8 fewer seats nationally (95 vs 103), but the CPC would have 40 fewer seats pushing them into a minority position. The gain of 14 western seats would make the region politically relevent to their future.

      Likewise, the 2015 election would have shifted the LPC majority into a minority with NDP or CPC support needed to pass any bill (LPC+BQ+GP=163). If Muclair were seen to be advancing the NDP agenda, he'd still probably be leader.

    8. You state: "The Lib-Dems were punished because of what they allowed to happen as the junior member of a Conservative coalition".

      So what does that say about the influence of a junior coalition partner in Government? I would propose the lesson from the Tory-Lib Dem. coalition is the junior partner can not effectively influence decision making never mind Government policy. More than that; the main beneficiary of coalition government is the largest party, with negligible benefits to smaller partners. Although to be fair there was a referendum on the voting system that the Lib Dems demanded as "payment" for joining the coalition. So, they did get at least one of their campaign promises fulfilled.

      "You aren't 'challenging the assumption', you are stating an opinion without any evidence".

      I think this an unfair comment. Firstly, I point to the fact roughly half of NDP constituencies are rural or agricultural as evidence. Secondly, I am proposing a hypothesis; The NDP would do better with FPTP vis a vis PR or AV, not an opinion.

      Thirdly, stating the NDP will do or is likely to do better under FPTP than AV or PR challenges the generally held view the NDP would benefit from a change in the electoral system. As an example: Had we had full PR last election the NDP would have gained 23 more seats [.197*338]=66.6. Let's round up equals 67. So, the NDP would gain 23 seats.

      You write more about keeping the Tories from power than ways the NDP can win Government. As this seems to be your true calling I see little reason to continue this conversation.

    9. I would agree being the junior partner in a coalition isn’t a good idea. However, holding the balance of power is. Look at Harper’s minority years. The NDP were able to extort some benefits while also being able to blame the Conservatives for everything.

      The fact that the seats that the NDP has won under FPTP voting is not evidence that they would do better under a FPTP system. I would suggest it’s better to look at which constituencies that were competitive for the NDP.

      Call it a hypothesis instead of an opinion then, but what is your observations to support or disprove it? That’s what separates one from the other.

      When have I written about keeping the Tories from power? From a NDP-perspective, keeping both the CPC and LPC from majority status provides them with an opportunity. Growing a wider base is necessary to form their own minority or majority government. PR allows the NDP more opportunities to do so by opening both the regional strongholds of the CPC and LPC while doing little to reduce their footprint in BC and QC.

    10. The evidence they do better with FPTP than PR or AV come from Eric's estimates, as I previously stated, that predict/ project the NDP with 2 seats under AV and 35 under PR compared with the 44 seats they currently possess. In BC they would lose 8 seats under PR, in Quebec 5, now they gain most of those seats back in Ontario but not all.

    11. That 35 seats under PR (2 under AV) is from the September polling numbers when they would have 1 seat under FPTP
      Going back the comparison is:
      Sept - 1 FPTP, 35 PR, 2 AV
      Aug - 4 FPTP, 42 PR, 6 AV
      Jul - 10 FPTP, 43 PR, 11 AV
      Jun - 6 FPTP, 45 PR, 11 AV
      May - 3 FPTP, 45 PR

      Losing 9 seats under PR is much better than losing 43 seats under FPTP.

    12. Hi Mapleson,

      I understand where you are coming from and on paper I realise they lose 43 seats or 9 seats. But what is the probability they would lose 43 seats v. gaining 20 or 100 or losing 9? I would argue FPTP has a much higher upside and at least the potential for a lower downside as well. Given the NDP's current position ensuring they keep their current distribution of seats is the shortest path to Government.


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