NDP scare in Victoria reflects a problem facing Adrian Dix

On paper, there's no way the NDP should have even come close to losing yesterday's federal by-election in Victoria. The seat, which was once held by prime minister John A. MacDonald, has been safely in the hands of the New Democrats since 2006.

In 2011, incumbent Denise Savoie took 50.78 percent of the votes. Back then, Green candidate Jared Giesbrecht was back in fourth place with just 11.61 percent.

Four well-known New Democrats squared off for the nomination to succeed Savoie, with highly regarded environmental lawyer Murray Rankin winning in a landslide.

But a funny thing happened on the way to his coronation to the House of Commons. Green candidate Donald Galloway's campaign caught fire, and he ended up fewer than three percentage points behind Rankin on election day.

Rankin's vote percentage of 37.23 was the lowest for a New Democrat in Victoria since the former mayor, David Turner, was defeated by Liberal cabinet minister David Anderson in 2004.

That's a fairly weak performance by a party trying to convince Canadians that it's the government in waiting. The federal New Democrats have also fallen behind the federal Liberals in recent opinion polls.

Poor nomination turnouts

Meanwhile, former NPA council candidate Mike Klassen has pointed out that the B.C. NDP has not drawn very many members to some high-profile nomination fights in Vancouver.

In the winnable seat of Vancouver-Fairview, former public-sector union leader George Heyman managed a mere 221 votes compared to 161 for councillor Geoff Meggs.

Compare that to more than 6,000 who voted in the Vision Vancouver nomination race in 2008.

In the winnable riding of Vancouver-Fraserview, the turnout was even lower in an NDP nomination fight between two well-known candidates. The 2009 candidate, Gabriel Yiu, won with 130 votes compared to just 95 for Coun. George Chow.

The NDP fight in Vancouver—False Creek also didn't exactly set the neighbourhood on fire, with Matt Toner edging park commissioner Constance Barnes.

Leader Adrian Dix and the B.C. NDP are still polling exceptionally well across the province. And it seems that the public is never going to fall in love with the premier, Christy Clark, judging by her personal disapproval ratings.

The last Angus Reid poll had the B.C. NDP leading the B.C. Liberals by 18 percentage points.

Even still, the results in the Victoria federal by-election should be cause for concern for Dix. The NDP's failure to attract large numbers of people to its Vancouver nominations is another sign that the party cannot be complacent.

Advertising is getting through

Meanwhile, it appears that those brutal Conservative radio attack ads on leader Thomas Mulcair are taking a toll on the federal New Democrats. These messages push the lie that Mulcair supports a $20-billion carbon tax.

Nobody, least of all those in the media, likes to admit that they're influenced by advertising. But since these Conservatives negative ads have gone over the airwaves, the federal New Democrats have slid in the polls.

Dix and his party are probably also going to pick up some of the stain of these messages, which emphasize how Canadians "can't afford the NDP".

The B.C. NDP is really fighting a two-front war

These attack ads are Stephen Harper's way of softening the ground under the provincial New Democrats and helping the B.C. Liberals in advance of the next provincial election.

And the federal ads coincide with the B.C. Liberal government bombarding voters with ads trumpeting the B.C. Jobs Plan.

It's starting to look like the B.C. NDP is in a two-front war against both the B.C. Liberals and federal Conservatives. What's worse for Dix is that this means the resources of both the provincial and federal governments may align against his party in increasingly visible ways in the coming months.

There will be "good-news announcements"—we've already seen this with a recent infrastructure project in Langley—and lots of ominous suggestions that the rise of the B.C. NDP will threaten B.C.'s and Canada's fragile economic recovery.

It probably won't be enough to stop the election of Dix as B.C.'s next premier, but it could slow his momentum somewhat.


Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments (20) Add New Comment
Answered Prayers
My supposition is this: the only way Dix can win a majority is if many, many people stay home to wash their hair on election day. Their traditional voting base of 33% is going to be supplemented by another 13 or 14%? I have my doubts.

I just don't see traditional centre or right of centre voters voting for him, regardless how bad CC and Campbell govts have been.

There's a big difference in 47% of the electorate saying they'd vote for you---then getting that turnout. I don't think the NDP machine can reach across and find people outside their party. As you have noted, where are their supporters at the nomination level?

Now with the Greens on the rise, expect to see some interesting batttles in other "safe' NDP ridings.

It ain't over yet, folks, in the crazy world we call #bcpoli

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plus...
The abs-a-licious Justin Trudeau will leach votes from the bearded-and-solemn Thomas Mulcair come October 2015. So will the politically-sexy Greens.

The federal NDP needs to get its shit together, and make a case for amalgamation with the Liberals and the Greens. Otherwise, votes will split and we'll have four more years of Harper.

It's that simple. And predictable.
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BC
Christy Clark, in response to question , says more must be done for seniors but it will be tough in coming budget… Gee that 64 million is self-serving ads could have helped with that problem!!!

Regarding the same 64 MILLION During a deficit – NO LESS Christy Clark pumped $64 million dollars into these ads to convince you she's good with money.
This is the crux of Clark’s deceit - she has a the gall to lie to us, all the while pretending what she is saying is God’s word. Any BC Taxpayer should be furious with that!! – Right, left, centre, upside down …….seriously

During last election, the BC Liberals promised deficit of $495m - maximum but ended up being almost 5 times that. Plus, we got the HST.

BC Liberals inherited surplus of $1BILLION + from BC NDP, but then ran 3 straight deficits totaling more than $5 BILLION. Please someone, anyone, explain how that is fiscal prudence?

Basically Clark’s talk does not equal the walk…..and those are the facts!

I am not too concerned about the NDP’s chances, BC Taxpayers have heard all the rhetoric, and will continue to until the string on the back of Christy Clark winds out.


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iSheep
It's called F.U.D - Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt.

It is right out of the standard Texas Style Republican Neo-Con Playbook.

The Neo-Cons will try every Dirty Trick they can to win.

The Greens are pawns in this Game. A Vote for any Green candidate splits the left vote in essence an unintended vote for the Lying BC Fiberals who have the worst Environmental & Fiscal Record in BC History.

It's going to come down to basic critical thinking and if people still believe that Corporate Welfare Record Deficit Neo Cons like the BC Fiberals are in fact good Fiscal Managers.

If you look at the factual record the NDP balanced budgets while handing a $2 Billion Surplus to the Neo-Con BC Liberals.

Gordo's Fiberals than racked up record Deficits. If you want more Deficits and Corporate Welfare Vote BC Fiberals and/or Greens (a splitting of the vote favouring BC Fiberals).
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harry grunsky
when was the last time an ndp candidate knocked on your door between elections? when was the last time an ndpVOLUNTEER called on you to discuss policy or platform? when was the last time that you saw the ndp candidate not huddled around the leader or mainstreeting for a quick photo op? now we get endless phone calls asking for donations by hired canvassers who don't know anything about the ndp or what it stands for. gone are the days of canvassing your neightbours by ndp members or volunteers identifying supporters! candidates have become lazy and will not do the work it takes to get elected. libby davies is the exception!
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Rafe
Adrian Dix is hoping and praying that the BC Liberals will not replace Christy Clark. Otherwise he will drop at least 10 points in the polls. If she stays, he can watch the results from the Honolulu Hilton and still get a majority government.
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James G
If there is some introspection to be done, how about leaving it to the parties that lost?

The mis-named "Green" Party is so laced with shades of Tory blue that it is looking more Aquamarine each and every day. Here they had everything: a bye-election where the outcome would have little national consequence, a star candidate and proximity to their only incumbent M.P. They lost by opposing (!) a sewage treatment for Greater Victoria and arrogantly barring the door to Mr. Floatie. Hey, but now the funding can flow in from monied Conservatives looking for another hedge to ensure Conservative victories since the Liberals seem dedicated to their nepotism death march.

Why is it that the Liberals, so high in the polls based on Justin Time, won none of these three bye-elections? Maybe because the whole impetus for the coronation/candidacy is to avoid scrutiny. When did the Party have it's last leader elected in an open convention? That's right, it was Dion! That nasty democracy struck at the (Paul) Martinite's total Bay Street control of events within their hedge party. Today, bringing a fresh young face forward is the best way to again avoid debate on why they are where they are. In the mind of the Party that believes it has the right to govern, this debate must never be allowed.

Appeals for unity? With Bay Street's Hedge Party willing to use a former Prime Minister's son to appeal to left leaning voters before an election and deliver Tory policy thereafter? With a very un-Green fly speck of a party of dilettantes? There is already unity amongst those on the 'progressive' side of Canadian politics since there is only one party on that side of the line and that is the NDP.
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Ron J Davis
Next thing Dix will turn Green with envy!
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LostMyGlasses
Amateur analysis. Many Conservative voters jumped to the Greens to oppose the money spent on the sewage treatment plant.

The Greens lied their way to votes, littering Victoria with pamphlets emphatically stating Suzuki "endorsed" the Greens, when no endorsement existed.
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iang62
The Greens have been on the rise in the west since 2000, steadily with a few stops n starts; the result in Victoria and in Calgary confirms that.

Whilst there are many fine enviro types in the NDP the party itself is a construct of 19th century politics and the traditional rise of the left and working class. By it's very nature the NDP cannot be a party with the environment at its core, no more than the Green's have the working class at its core.

The Suzuki issue was a mistake, it is well known he does not endorse any one political party.

The Greens continue to garner support from all over the political spectrum to the loss of other parties.

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Noooooo NDP
Don't tell me they're actually trying to coast to a win again! Didn't work last time with an unpopular Premier, guys!

Jeez... they haven't even asked me to volunteer, except for an email from Victoria, right before the Fed vote. Got lots of calls from the candidates in the local provincial nominations, but they wanted my vote, not my help. Got lots of emails asking for money.

Doesn't the provincial NDP see the low nomination vote numbers and scanty volunteerism as a problem?
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re: iang62
The CCF was founded in 1932 and was very much a "construct" of 20th century Canadian labour, socialist, Depression-era, and social gospel politics. It was strongly inspired by Keir Hardie and the British Labour Party, also a 20th century "construct."

It became the NDP in 1961 after a multi-year, "New Party" initiative that substantially changed the CCF, mainly by solfifying official union endorsement and funding (though not too many union member votes).

Books!
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Lewis
People are voting against the liberals....Adrian Dix has nothing to offer.Perception is everything in todays world and if businesses perceive the NDP will make life more difficult for them then B.C. is going to be in big trouble.Most people work for small businesses that have been struggling for years.
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D in BC
Only 44% of the eligible voters were able to make it to the voting booths last Monday in Victoria. Pretty sad! I would think that a lot of folks, after Denise Savoie's popularity, thought that an NDP win was in the bag and stayed home. The Greens should not get too confident in their results.
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iang62
The British Labour party was officially formed in 1900, it didn't appear by magic at that time ! There were numerous working class social movements prior to 1900 that resulted in the eventual formation of the party. Yes it took 30 years for Canada to form its own version of the British Labour Party, but the ideologies of Marx and Engels came well before 1930, Canada was just slow off the mark in getting started. The CCF didn't dream up their own ideology they adopted other models already in use, the majority of which were formulated in the 19th century and implemented in the early 20th.

In a similar way we can trace the "environmental" movement back to the formation of national parks or the anti nuclear movement; the Green political movement world wide is a result of the abuses of the 20th century and the inability of the political right and left to restrain such abuses.

The political left has created unions and increased the "quality" of life of many people through universal health and education reform etc for which we are all grateful. However, they have traditionally not addressed [until recently] any issues regarding the environment and THAT is why we continue to see the Green's popularity increase. It is the political Leopard that cannot change its spots, no more than Conservatives, Liberals or Greens can change theirs.

44% of voter turn out for a by-election is actually pretty good, it is usually around 30%.
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James G
It takes time and effort to build a successful political party. To relegate needs of working people inside or out of labour unions as irrelevant to the project of environmental protection is not a neutral position. It is no less than a far right position. In 50 years, the NDP built a growing coalition that has a record of accomplishment in provincial governments of which it can be proud. The Green Party, definitely including decent and well meaning people amongst it's members did not invent environmental issues and has no monopoly on enironmental issues. In 30 years, it has no record of accomplishing anything whatsoever excepting winning a single Parliamentary seat. In a vivid demonstration of answering the question of "who pays" for cleaning up and repairing environmental damage, the candidate in Victoria opposed building a sewage treatment plant but only after finding out the cost was unpopular. He folded like Superman on laundry day and was rewarded with conservative-minded votes. This was progress?

The NDP came along just at the cusp of the 1960s and proudly includes labour as one of it's constituencies but it also grew to include social movements of the times, including the anti-war movement, the environmental movement, somewhat later the movement for LGBT equality and of course the women's movement. If anyone believes that the Green Party of Canada is progressive, just ask the party leader about her endlessly equivocated, have-it-both-ways opinion on a women's right to choose in abortion rights.
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Please, Please, Please
As long as the NDP ignores 90% of what the Straight writes about them, and about the same percentage of comments on said stories, the have absolutely nothing to worry about.

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Pat Crowe
This vote was all about the sewage issue. The N.D.P. was for and the Greens against with the caveat until better technology comes into play.
The N.D.P. was lucky on this squeaker as they are on the wrong headed, non science, side of the issue.
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iang62
James G - no one had ever said the Green's are wholly "progressive" and if they have they are totally inaccurate. The Green's are wholly "conservative" in the sense they want to conserve land, air, water, forests etc. They do believe in a strong social policy and free enterprise within established "environmental" constraints.

In my time with the Green Party we had people from all over the political map involved, former leader Jim Harris was an x conservative. And before you rag on the Green's for being "conservative" keep in mind the Conservatives often rag on the Greens for being too lefty - both left and right are correct and both are wrong.

Of course the Green's have had little direct influence politically in the last 30 years - our ancient voting system has seen to that. Once the Green's realised the voting system was not about to be changed they re-focused and elected their first MP. Given the way our voting system "works" I'd suggest the Greens are going arrive in a big way or they are not going to arrive at all - all or none.
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James G
Funny how the Greens always blame the first-past-the-post system for their failures rather than indulge in a little introspection. Within 11 years of it's founding, the NDP managed to govern three provinces and hold the federal balance of power. The Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois both rose from nothing to form the Official Opposition. Parties that have something to offer always have some success regardless of the rules. Nonetheless, I appreciate the honesty above. I hope it is oft quoted to those assuming there is something worth working with in the Green Party.
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