We Need a Strong NDP. Don’t Vote for Them

I’ve voted for the New Democratic Party (NDP) as recently as the last provincial election, but I can’t justify voting for the current incarnation of the federal party.

To give a little context to those not up to date on Canadian politics - the coming Canadian election is a 2-way race between the Liberal Party of Canada headed by current prime minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer. There are 4 other parties in the running including the NDP headed by Jagmeet Singh.

While the popular vote is close between two main parties (each polling about 32%) the projections for the party to win the most seats in parliament puts the liberals in a slightly better position, however that advantage seems to be evaporating day by day. Unless there is massive preference falsification happening in that people are lying to pollsters on mass the way they did in the lead up to the Trump/Clinton election, or there’s a major scandal lurking in the bushes, it is going to be a close race.

It seems unlikely that either party will win enough seats to form a majority government so the minority government will have to pair with one or more of the other 4 parties to get anything meaningful done. This would typically be with the NDP partnering with the Liberals if not for that they are projected to win as few as 12 out of 338 seats which would cause them to lose official party status (as recently happened with the Liberal Party provincially in Ontario).

To give you an idea of just how dire the situation is, they’re projected to win fewer seats across all of Canada than the Bloc Quebecois Party that only runs candidates in the province of Quebec. This is all despite an extremely strong debate performance by Singh that saw NDP support surge.

The Singh lead NDP has made a series of missteps since day one that makes it unfit to govern. For his first day as the leader of the party, Jagmeet had an interview with the CBC in which he refused to denounce a known terrorist, obfuscated who was responsible for the bombing which killed hundreds of Canadians, then later accused the interview of being racist for even asking the question.

Jagmeet had several other high profile flubs including when a CTV reporter asked him about the recent Huawei CFO arrest and the Chinese ambassador to Canada’s accusation that Canada had a double standard in upholding the rule of law due to Canada’s “white supremacy”. Singh seemed unaware of the incident and stumbled through his answer and deflected by criticizing the Trump administration. He also had to be corrected by his own caucus about the legality of what language supreme court judges can speak in proceedings (it has to be English or French, Canada’s two official languages), and couldn’t answer the question of whether his caucus supported the Liberal Party gun control bill that was currently being debated.

After years of hard work making inroads in Quebec by former NDP leader Jack Layton, Mr. Singh looks likely to win 1 seat in all of Quebec compared to 59 in the 2011 election Layton managed to pull off. In February a full quarter (11 out of 44) of NDP incumbents said they won’t be seeking reelection. The NDP managed to lose half or more of its candidates in New Brunswick who defected to the Green Party because Jagmeet had yet to visit the province while Elizabeth May had managed to make multiple trips in the same time frame despite the Green Party having significantly fewer resources than the NDP.

Furthermore, the NDP had trouble finding candidates to run in each of Canada’s 338 districts, a problem that sprung from Jagmeet’s commitment to finding racialized candidates as opposed to…those most qualified? Those best able to win? Even if you believe with your heart of hearts that finding a group of candidates that “represent Canada” is the most important thing, you have to accept that it’s all for not if they can’t win and even worse if they lose official party status.

All of their candidates, including the “49 percent (166), are female, 24 percent (80) are racialized, 12 percent (40) are from the LGBTQ2 community, 12 percent (39) are youth candidates, eight percent (27) are Indigenous and five percent (17) that are living with a disability” will have no semblance of power if they lose the election. An additional slap in the face would come if the Liberal Party underperforms and partnering with the NDP will still not give them enough seats to override a Conservative minority, which is well within the realm of possibility if current polls are correct.

What makes the underperforming NDP even worse is that the 2011 election saw the Jack Layton led NDP win 103 seats and gain official opposition status. The 2015 Tom Mulcair led NDP saw that number drop to 44 in the face of Trudeaumania, which was still the 2nd best showing the NDP has ever had. Now that the polish has worn off of Trudeau one would think the NDP would be in prime position to regain some of the momenta they had in 2011 and present themselves as a plausible alternative to the Liberal Party for those on the left, unfortunately, they’ve gone off the deep end. I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate that the NDP is poised to win as few as 12 seats. Faced with reality, one could only conclude that their reliance on identity politics and carefree spending with no path towards a balanced budget isn’t resonating with voters. It’s embarrassing that the party I used to vote for is in such poor financial shape with a 4.5 million dollar deficit for 2018 alone.

While Mulcair proposed a balanced budget and modest reforms in the right direction, Singh has laid out a budget proposal that includes massive spending projects implemented immediately that would see the country rack up a deficit of $32.7 billion in their first year alone (almost double the current projected $18 billion dollar deficit) while 90% of their tax proposals intended to make up some of that deficit were deemed difficult to deliver on by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

In an Abacus Poll asking the top 3 issues impacting the vote of Canadians, number 1 was cost of living, followed by health care, climate change, taxes, housing affordability, and good jobs/wages. Canadians aren’t stupid and you don’t have to be an economist to realize that a $32.7 billion deficit in one year has to be paid by someone. With 90% of their tax proposals being ineffective it is painfully obvious that taxes will go up, housing affordability will go down, and downward pressure on new good jobs being formed due to increased business taxes will be felt by the working people of Canada. The deficit, managing immigration and securing the border are concerns to a not insignificant part of the population, and the NDP has pretty well declared they don’t care about the deficit and are calling for extremely lax immigration policies at a time when 63% of Canadians think immigration should be limited.

The issues where the NDP historically connected with voters (housing affordability, wealthy paying their fair share, and income inequality) are failing to sway voters over to their side with the Liberal Party taking a larger share of voters who care about those issues and even more embarrassingly the Conservative party outperforming them on some of those issues as well. While an idealistic platform is admirable, it’s all hot air without having the mandate to enact it.

We need a strong NDP to act as a counterweight to the Conservatives and viable alternative to the historically centrist Liberal Party, but that simply doesn’t seem to be possible in this coming election. Jagmeet Singh was in prime position to place himself outside of two establishment candidates and carve out a new path that would aim to truly help working-class Canadians. Unfortunately, their platform seems to be alienating the very people that used to make up a large part of their base that helped them form an official opposition government less than ten years ago - to potentially losing official party status today.

A Mulcair or Laytonesque platform has been proven to resonate with voters, and it seems like it’s time for a reset on the direction the NDP has taken. If the party fails drastically in this election, they’ll have no choice but to lick their wounds and spend the next 5 years coming up with policies that are beneficial and exciting enough to energize Canadians into voting for them again. Until this happens, I can’t justify voting for them.

As to who I am voting for, I can’t see any other choice but to vote for my local Rhinoceros Party candidate. Their promise of taking Canada off the gold standard, opting instead to use a snow standard to boost the economy makes about as much economic sense as NDP’s proposal of doubling the deficit and they are just as likely as the NDP to win a majority.