Nick Fillmore: Bad news for the NDP and the rest of us as Harper’s Conservatives pull even in polls
By Nick Fillmore
It’s hard to believe, but—despite all the crimes, insults to Canadians and general incompetence— the Harper government has pulled even with the NDP in major opinion polls.
The highly regarded website, Threehundredeight.com, calculated all polls as of August 30 and showed the Conservatives at 33.9, the NDP at 33.6, and the Liberals at 21.7.
Based on these percentages, if an election were held today, Harper would finish in first by a comfortable margin.
A blend of polls conducted by Forum Research and Abacus between July 25 and August 12 on an aggregate sample of about 3,700 respondents projects Conservative Party strength at around 133 seats, 120 seats for the New Democratic Party, 46 for the Liberal Party, eight for the Bloc Québécois, and one for the Green Party.
The important question has to be, not how well the Cons are doing, but why Thomas Mulcair and the "Dippers"— as they're called by mainstream journalists— aren't doing better.
Considering the fact that more than 60 percent of Canadians voted against Harper in the last election, that the outrageous Cons. have offended just about every thinking person in the country, and that the Liberals are pretty well leaderless, you would think the NDP should be at perhaps 45 percent in the polls.
Despite their failure to impress Canadians, top folks in the NDP have been behaving as though they are sure they are the "government in waiting". The party apparently thinks it’s in a strong position to become the government because it is now the opposition in Parliament.
So why isn’t the NDP leading the Conservatives in popularity by a country mile?
I personally dislike the emphasis Canadians and the censored mainstream media place on the appeal factor of party leaders. Case in point: we may see Trudeaumania all over again, but this time the excitement will be over a boy who has not matured enough to hold a place in Cabinet, let alone lead the country.
One difficulty the NDP faces is that its leader, Thomas Mulcair, who has many strengths (but also a lot of hair on his face), has not so far impressed very many Canadians. An Angus Red poll published in August said that only 31 percent of Canadians have confidence in Mulcair’s performance. And what about Stephen Harper? Well 36 percent of Canadians think he is doing a good job!
Perhaps the NDP should think more about adopting and promoting stronger positions on key issues. Mulcair and those in the NDP who so desperately want to win, have taken the party further toward the centre and are wishy-washy on a lot of key issues. No matter what their stripe, political parties that think they have the edge in getting elected start playing down the discussion of any real issues for fear of driving away voters.
Does the anger that swelled up around the phrase "99 percent versus the one percent" mean nothing more than a slogan to those who control the party? It should mean something. We have reached a point where millions of everyday Canadians are angrier than at any time in living memory and they’re looking for someone to lead them out of the Harper hell.
By moving themselves closer to the positions that might be held by the Liberals, the NDP is opening up territory for the Liberals to challenge them for votes, especially among those who are undecided.
I think it’s time for the NDP to throw away the traditional “how to do politics” reader and aggressively reach out to Canadians. It would require some time and a new focus, but the party should try to rebuild its true grassroots connections, à la CCF and the early NDP, which was neglected under Jack Layton’s leadership.
In terms of policy, the NDP should announce that it would dramatically change the tax system to give more money back to average Canadians and less to the rich. It would begin to eliminate the many tax loopholes for the rich created by the Liberals and Conservatives over the past 30 years. And the party would reverse the trend and begin gradually increasing taxes on corporations.
In view of the fact that the Cons practically have no development policies—other than to develop tar sands at any price— the NDP should announce a diversified development plan that would include some emphasis on renewable energy. The NDP would phase out subsidies to the non-renewable energy sector. It would attempt to work with Alberta to keep much of the tar sands in the ground, while supporting a policy for limited, long-term use of tar sands for Canadian industry. It would spell out its environmental protection plan. Mulcair would guarantee, in writing, that he would introduce proportional representation if he won a majority.
I can’t help but wonder how the NDP would fare if it took strong positions on most of these issues. There is time to begin making changes so they will have some impact on Canadians before the Liberals hold their leadership convention.
Otherwise, we have the bleak prospect of looking forward to a Conservative minority government in 2015— unless a lot of us can successfully urge people to support either a New Democrat or a Liberal in a lot of key ridings. But that’s a story for another day.
Nick Fillmore, previously an investigate journalist and producer with the CBC, is a freelance journalist and social activist based in Toronto.