The NDP vies for Atlantic touchdown

Garden15

Theirs may be a Hail Mary pass, mere days before the federal election, but you’ve got to hand it to the New Democrats: if nothing less, they are determined to go down fighting.

Just as some polls show Justin Trudeau effectively eating Thomas Mulcair’s lunch, last week the NDP announced its platform tailor-made for Atlantic Canada. It included a surprising number of goodies calculated to warm the cockles of regional hearts.

There’s a bit more money for regional development initiatives. There’s a promise to spent $512 million over the next four years on cities and downs for things like road and bridge repairs. Mr. Mulcair, et.al., also want to establish 50,000 childcare spots, costing parents a measly $15 a day. What’s more, the former socialist party intends to retain door-to-door mail delivery – something its arch-nemesis, the Conservative government in Ottawa, has announced it will dismantle across the country.

Whether any of this will actually persuade enough voters in Atlantic Canada to throw their hats into the ring with the NDP is an open question. In recent days, throughout Canada, sentiments have been shifting.

According to a recent CTV news report, “The latest nightly tracking by Nanos Research shows the Liberals emerging with a lead in the national election race, with the Conservatives holding steady and the NDP continuing to slide.”

Apparently, voters were asked, “If a federal election were held today, please rank your top two current local voting preferences.”

The results gave the Grits a squeaker of a head start against the Tories (35.6 per cent support, versus 31 per cent, respectively). At the same time support for the NDP has broadly plunged.

Said the news report: “The NDP have slid by a significant margin in Quebec, from a high of 50 per cent support at the beginning of the campaign, down to 30.1 per cent in the latest poll. The NDP are now in a statistical tie with the Liberals in the province, who registered 28.1 per cent support in the latest tracking.

“The Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives are also in a statistical tie for third, with the BQ at 20.4 per cent support and the Conservatives at 17.4 per cent in Quebec. Outside Quebec, the latest regional numbers show: The Liberals lead in Atlantic Canada, with 50.2 per cent support; the Conservatives lead in the Prairies, with 46.9 per cent support; the Liberals have 40.9 per cent support in Ontario, while the Conservatives are at 36.5 per cent support; in British Columbia, the Liberals are tracking at 34.7 per cent support, with the NDP at 30.0 per cent support.”

As Nik Nanos observed, “”The Mulcair brand is strong, and it’s very clear from the polling that he’s probably the most well-liked of the three federal leaders. The bad news is, Canadians don’t see him as prime minister.

Of course, this sort of shake up was bound to happen. The NDP, both federally and provincially, have provided Atlantic Canada with some of the region’s best policy ideas – both humane and sensible – in recent decades.

But attitudes about politics and politicians become easily calcified, and it doesn’t take much to undermine a promising showing in popular opinion. Sometimes it takes only a vague notion that, in the end, no amount of good intention, no number of worthy ideas, can eradicate the perception that the NDP has been and shall always be Canada’s “third” party (a rather absurd proposition, given that it was, until the election call, the nation’s Official Opposition).

Still, really, who wants to play on a team whose forwards can’t catch the ball?

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