The NDP should have three strategic focuses leading up to the election in 2015: regions, religions and introductions.
Canadian politics is a matter of regions and no party knows that more than the NDP. Every party in Canada requires a regional bedrock to mount a national challenge for office. For decades, Liberal dominance in the East secured their ongoing contender status, while Stephen Harper currently benefits from the continuing support the prairies and suburban/rural Ontario. The NDP, for the first time, now retains the vast majority of seats in Quebec and the status quo in this province must continue for the NDP to remain serious contenders in 2015.
The NDP’s oft-quoted axiom, “In Quebec we have many trees, but shallow roots, and in the prairies we have deep roots, but no trees,” remains entirely relevant. The NDP need to wrench seats from the Tories in the Prairie Provinces and from both the Tories and Liberals in BC. While some see this as a long-shot, the NDP’s populist credentials and its championing of the abolition of the Senate should give them a foot in the door. The Leader needs to focus on finding quality, high-profile candidates and the party needs to focus on building a competitive edge in the West.
The political regions of 21st century Canada are quickly becoming less provincial and more multicultural. Unlike the other two parties, the NDP has struggled in past years to connect with immigrant and diverse communities. While running candidates from diverse backgrounds has never been an issue for the NDP, we need to be far more strategic and actively engaged in reaching out to New Canadians on issues that matter to them. This point is critical for winning more seats in Ontario and British Columbia.
There is nothing wrong with being pragmatic about seeking votes in diverse communities. In fact, the more Canadian political parties focus on reaching out to these communities, the more engaged and empowered they become. It is through this engagement that Canada becomes stronger.
Unlike in the last election, both the NDP and Liberal leaders face the electorate as federal leaders for the first time. Both parties are rightly focusing on defining their leaders in the run-up to the election. My own research on the effect of kinship and name recognition in politics suggests a discernible advantage for dynastic candidates, which puts the NDP at a disadvantage in English Canada. However, our Leader’s political savvy, working-class charm and unflappable composure should give the NDP enough of a foundation to ensure he is viewed as competent and polished for 2015.
The NDP have a fighting chance to form government for the first time in 2015. Focusing on the above three strategic areas should ensure the party is in good shape for Writ drop.