Friday, February 4, 2011

Is weakness in the regions the real cause for NDP flip-flopping on the budget?

At this point, the NDP has had more than a few positions on supporting the Tory budget. While Liberals have been clear that hard working Canadian families deserve a hard working government that invests in the social services they need to put ground under their feet, not a government that hands out big corporate tax breaks, the NDP has yet to come out with a clear agenda for the coming budget. They have a few minor tweeks they would like to make, sure. Will an added drop of spending here and there for some boutique policies really buy NDP support for a Conservative government whose national housing strategy is prisons, and who thinks big corporations should get tax breaks instead of middle class Canadians getting the social services they deserve?

If you do a region by region breakdown, you can see some pretty visible cracks and holes in the NDP, which shares a campaign machine and support base with its provincial parties to a higher degree compared to the other parties.

In the Maritimes, the Nova Scotia NDP hasn't fallen behind in popularity, putting NDP seats at risk there, and the Liberals have seen some strong poll numbers across the Atlantic recently, and the Nova Scotia Liberals have some good momentum, winning by-elections and gaining a high-profile defection from the PC's, Karen Casey. The NB NDP is going through another leadership race, and the PEI and Newfoundland party organizations are mortibund, aside from Jack Harris.

In Quebec, the NDP lost a high profile candidate, Jean-Claude Rocheleau to the Bloc, and Thomas Mulcair faces a very tough challenge from Martin Cauchon for Outremont.

In Ontario, the NDP vote collapsed in the Vaughan by-election, winning less than 2% of the vote, and in the 2 most recent provincial by-elections, the NDP vote declined from 2007 as well. This puts them at risk of losing a number of close NDP-Liberal seats, such as Ottawa Centre with Scott Bradley running hard, Trinity-Spadina, and a good handfull of seats in Northern Ontario.

In the Praries, of course, the NDP lost the fortress seat of Winnipeg North to the Liberals, sending shockwaves across urban politics and demonstrating the Liberals could compete and win in Western Canada, and the Saskatchewan NDP is trailing in the polls.

BC might show the most vulnerability for the NDP. The party has MP's stepping down federally, and the provincial leadership race has gone from farce to tragedy very quickly, with allegations of the party blocking candidates, of leadership candidates using shady sign-up methods, disputes over the role of the labour unions within the race, and other shenanigans.

The NDP can put on a brave face as they flip-flop over the Harper budget, but a look at the on the ground situation shows they very well could put political calculations above standing against the Harper agenda.

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