Orange crush: Canada’s sudden NDP love-in leaves Toronto cold

Orange crush: Canada’s sudden NDP love-in leaves Toronto cold

Tangerine tide: Jack Layton at a Saskatoon rally (Image: Matt Jiggins) 

Remember when the writ dropped and the national press spent 48 hours wondering if NDP leader Jack Layton could stand up to the punishing campaign schedule with his health troubles? Neither do we. The notion of a weak Layton seems downright quaint after a weekend where most polls point to a surge in NDP support. The one part of the country withstanding the orange tide so far is Ontario—and given the history of Liberal polling, it seems like the Grits’ last redoubt is the reliable Fortress Toronto and the suburbs around it. If the polls are right, the party of Wilfrid Laurier and Pierre Trudeau is now the party of the 416 and 905, and the NDP are the opposition to Stephen Harper in the rest of the country. Ouch.

In Quebec, the NDP surge has come at the expense of the Bloc Quebecois as well as the Liberals, and the BQ has responded by bringing out Jacques Parizeau. Gilles Duceppe is telling the Quebecois that this election isn’t about left-right battles, it’s about separatism and federalism—or, in the original French tweet (since revised): “élection n’est pas lutte gauche-droite mais lutte entre fédéralistes-souverainistes, entre le Canada et le Québec.” How this will all play out in Quebec is anyone’s guess, but having Duceppe and Parizeau dishing out hardcore separatism like it’s 1995—just as the Liberals bring out Jean Chrétien no less—is almost making us nostalgic.

Speaking of the mid-’90s: why has Ontario and the GTA opted out of the NDP surge?  Paul Wells of Maclean’s thinks that it all goes back to Bob Rae’s tenure as NDP premier in the province. The NDP were rejected so forcefully in 1995—much more so than the Mike HarrisErnie Eves Tories were in 2003—that some Ontarians are basically not willing to vote for the NDP this side of the afterlife. It’s a plausible theory, but it also implies that Rae will never be the Liberal leader. Either that, or voters exist solely to confuse pundits.

If the NDP wave rolls right through election day, it’s difficult to say what the next parliament will look like. Conservatives will still form the government, and the NDP (new heights aside) would have to be much stronger to grab Liberal seats in Ontario and Conservatives ones out west. The leaderships are also shaky. Another all-time low in the polls for the Liberals would raise the question of whether Michael Ignatieff will still hold the post of leader. The anti-Iggy arguments are obvious, but the pro-Iggy arguments are not necessarily wrong: Layton himself has had his post for a long time, has never actually won an election, but has slowly improved his party’s standing. Now the Liberals are getting compared to the NDP in pieces like this, which has got to smart—and the party may take out its frustration on Ignatieff whether he deserves it or not.

• Strength in Ontario puts ‘squeaker of a majority’ within Harper’s reach [Globe and Mail]
• Ipsos Reid poll shows Liberals in third []
• NDP’s surprising surge shakes up the campaign [Toronto Star]
• Boredom be gone! Layton’s rocking, Ignatieff’s bumbling. Here’s what to consider [Toronto Sun]
• Should Ignatieff get another chance? [National Post]
• Stephen Harper is winning [Maclean’s]
• Duceppe deploys Parizeau to shore up support [CBC]