Don’t settle for shallow narratives to explain NDP loss

I published an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen explaining why I don’t think we should be satisfied with the analyses of the NDP’s underachievement in the last election. Among other things, I think that the view that one of the reasons explaining the NPD’s loss is that it was “outflanked from the left” by the LPC deserves more scrutiny. I realize that an electoral campaign is not a political philosophy seminar, but this doesn’t entail that hasty judgments should remain unchallenged. More importantly, the lessons that we will draw from the results will influence how we think about social-democracy’s prospects in Canada.


Don’t settle for shallow narratives to explain NDP loss — 4 Comments

  1. I agree with Mr. Maclure. One of the troubling aspects of these shallow analyses is that many die-hard NDP members are buying into such analyses. I have gone through all the Party’s campaign promises, and from my perspective as a member since 1962, the platform was modern, leftist, and feasible. The notion that balanced budgets were the item that distinguished left from right is just plain ludicrous although I do think that Mr. Mulcair and candidates could have more clearly shown the downsides (and there are many) to deficit borrowing. No one seemed to pay any attention, least of all the media and print journalists, to Mr. Trudeau’s promise-everything-to-anybody approach to campaigning and governing. The cheese will eventually bind, after the self-congratulations, selfies, and trumped up talk. Don’t get me wrong: Mr. Trudeau’s team was clever and sly but they weren’t not always truthful and they hid their own details (if they had any to reveal). The public, quite frankly, was hoodwinked by style over substance. That goes a long way, but substance and good, original, decision-making must now prevail. And the Canadian public will be watchful and active in keeping the new government to account. More likely, the NDP lost what it did because it didn’t LOOK “fresh” and “new.” The NDP Campaign team also made strategic and implementation blunders during the final month.

  2. Merci pour ce texte, M. Maclure. I few quick comments. While I think it can be said that the NDP had an overall more progressive platform, it was weak on the question of how to tackle inequality. True the liberal plan to tax the super-rich is not as progressive as it looks, but I suspect it is as coherent as the idea of reducing corporate taxes. The question of style alluded to by Ms. Bruneau is, I think, important. It speaks to the democratic approach of a party. We’ll see if the new government can meet its campaign rhetoric with substantive policies in this regard, but some notion of “radical democracy” is clearly something that was lacking in the NDP’s approach. Finally, while the NDP deserves at shot a power, members should not see the Liberals as their prime adversary. Looking south of the border we see a lot of leftist Americans that would be all too happy to have a three-party system as a means of expressing their views and influencing the centrist democratic party. Instead, they must accept that their progressive politics get looped into a somewhat passionless centrism. Here the NDP and the Liberals can battle it out to ensure more inclusive, social democratic ideas outcomes.

    • Canadians shouldn’t be complacent about the permanence of a 3- (or 2 1/2) party system in this country. This alignment is unlikely to persist – except in a few regional pockets – if the extremism of the Conservative Party remains firmly entrenched in the post-Harper era. If it does, we’re likely to see the emergence of something more like the U.S.-style duopoly, with any attempts to mount a credible 3rd party campaign being suppressed by intensified appeals for “strategic voting”. It’ll be the cool kids vs. the crazies, and the NDP (or any successor) will be denounced as relentlessly as Ralph Nader was for daring to “split the vote”.