Since there was a decided lack of Saturday afternoon sports aside from the NCAA Tournament, I ended up flipping over to the NDP leadership convention during TV timeouts while watching the Elite Eight. Twas a marathon affair that required four ballots and took no less than 12 hours–due in part to delays caused by hackers attacking the online voting software–but they ended up nominating the guy that almost everybody thought would win, ex-deputy leader Thomas Mulcair. L’homme fort d’Outremont, the only NDP MP in Quebec whose parliamentary experience preceded last May’s election, was a natural choice for chef, considering that his province holds almost 60 per cent of the NDP’s seats–and that they’ll likely be hard-pressed to keep all of them come 2015. Believe it or not, but Quebec is about to flock back to the Bloc, according to the latest Leger Marketing survey. Mind you, they still have plenty of time to change their minds (again)…
That said, holding off the sovereingtist party in its new power base didn’t seem to be the top priority from the glimpses and snippets I saw of interviews with various MPs and party members. These guys truly believe that their new leader is the next prime minister of Canada. And of course they would. You’re not gonna find an unbiased analysis of the Canadian political landscape at an NDP convention. But realistically, I’m not sure how they intend to win enough seats across the country in three years’ time, unless they’re counting on the Conservatives contracting a serious case of political leprosy between now and the next campaign. And hey, it could happen. Stephen Harper was obviously lying through his teeth when he said he’d govern for all Canadians in his victory speech last year, and I’m not the only one who’s already a little leery of his strong, stable, national Conservative majority. But where–and how–does he lose enough seats to cede power? Perhaps it’s time to look back at the last right-wing déconfiture–the 1993 federal election.
Okay, so Mulcair and co might not wanna revisit a campaign that saw the NDP win only nine ridings–but that was still seven more than the Progressive Conservatives, who saw their seat count drop from 169 to a mere two. And it wasn’t that everybody flocked to the Liberals, either, as they won a majority with just 41 per cent of the popular vote (gee, why does that number sound familiar?). Rather, after nine years of majority PC rule, the political landscape looked a lot different with the rise of the Reform and the creation of the Bloc Quebecois. Wait, does that mean he’s suggesting that we’ll need new political parties in order to unseat the Conservatives in 2015? Why yes, I am!
Let’s face it, there aren’t too many Conservative-held ridings that’ll swing all the way to the NDP. Stephen Harper’s power base is right-wing, rural Western Canada, where folks still haven’t forgiven Trudeau for the NEP and the new national opposition is a distant afterthought. When I lived in Calgary, it wasn’t unusual for the NDP to run university students in Alberta ridings–but unlike the famous McGill four, they’d usually finish in fourth place (even behind the Green Party). In fact, the only party that could take some of the 34 Alberta seats in the next election would be a new, Alberta-based right-wing party. In fact, such a party already exists–albeit not on the federal level just yet.
The Wild Rose Party, which boasts the best campaign bus evar(!!!11!!), is seen as a serious challenger to the provincial PCs in this year’s provincial election. Led by ex-Calgary Herald columnist Danielle Smith, the party espouses fiscally-conservative, libertarian views, in stark contrast to the current Canadian government’s jails and jets spending plan. What would it take for the Wild Rose Party to take its act to the national stage? Well, a win provincially would be a necessary first step, followed by a piece of federal legislation that so infuriates libertarians that they’d be tempted to throw their hat in the ring. (Bill C-30 just might do the trick, though it’s a few years to soon. What will Vic Toews come up with as an encore?) Of course, a federal Wild Rose Party wouldn’t run across Canada, becoming a de facto Bloc Albertan, a single-province party acting as a thorn in the nationalists’ side. But still, even if this hypothetical party were to sweep Alberta’s 34 seats, that wouldn’t be enough to sweep the Conservatives out of office.
So, where does the NDP win those extra seats? They have some supporters in downtown Vancouver and Winnipeg, but Saskatchewan, the birthplace of its founder, Tommy Douglas, has been gerrymandered in such a way that there are no strictly urban ridings, with Regina and Saskatoon’s votes being mixed in with their surrounding rural areas. The NDP can’t really take any more power away from the Bloc, so that leaves the 35 seats currently held by the Liberals. And let’s face it, they can’t really count on the Liberals to collapse any further, so their best bet would be the old adage, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join em.” Perhaps third-place candidate Nathan Cullen was on to something when he proposed a non-binding, one-off merger that would allow multiple parties to unite behind a single candidate in a particular riding. It’s not quite the New Democratic Liberal Party, mind you, but if the two united, the Wild Rose took a big bite outta Alberta, and Quebec City swung back to the Bloc, expelling its last few Conservative candidates, we could very well see an NDP-led minority government in 2015. Other than that, well, Harper would hafta do something so incredibly stupid that he’d be forced to pull a Mulroney and step down, leaving the party in shambles, and…
Okay, enough with the hypotheticals. We’ve still got at least three years to go, in any case.