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So close and yet so far. That was the story in the 2015 federal election for the NDP, who spent much of the campaign looking like a threat to finally win their first majority before getting outflanked by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and his pledge to run deficits. Now almost a decade later, it’s happening again, except this time it’s Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives doing the outflanking. If he succeeds, it could cost the federal NDP their very existence.

On the surface, things don’t look quite this desperate. Sure, Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is polling a few points behind where it did in the last election, but they hardly look like they’re in danger of getting wiped out. Underneath that surface, though, are some very dangerous currents. Despite collapsing support for the federal Liberals, a phenomenon that ought to disproportionately benefit the NDP, it has barely managed to tread water in the polls.

That’s because Poilievre’s very deliberate pitch to working-class voters — you know, the traditional NDP base — is bearing fruit. According to recent numbers from Abacus Data, 10 per cent of those who voted NDP in 2021 now support Poilievre’s CPC. For a party led by someone with a fondness for tailored suits and Rolex watches, and who seems far more comfortable in a downtown Toronto cafe than a shop floor in Hamilton, this is a dangerous trend for Singh’s NDP.

So far, the voters they’re losing to Poilievre have been mostly masked by the disaffected Liberals who are parking their support with the NDP, but those are the same ones who might very well return to the Liberal fold come election time. Indeed, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll from January, more than one-third (36 per cent) of NDP voters said they’d be likely to switch to the Liberals, with a further 30 per cent saying it’s something they’d consider.

At least a few NDP MPs seem to be reading these tea leaves already. Charlie Angus, the longtime MP for Timmins-James Bay and former leadership candidate, has announced he’s not going to run in the next election. Manitoba’s Daniel Blaikie, the son of longtime NDP MP Bill Blaikie and a rising star in his own right, resigned his seat to serve as an adviser to Premier Wab Kinew. Carol Hughes (Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing) and Rachel Blaney (North Island-Powell River), both members of the party’s shrinking rural caucus, have also announced they won’t run in the next election.

The federal NDP is becoming an increasingly urban party, if not exclusively so, right at the moment when the federal Liberals are doing the same thing. Yes, Canada’s cities continue to get bigger and make up a larger share of our electoral map, but they’re not growing nearly fast enough to accommodate both — not, at least, without exposing them to a potential vote split that ultimately benefits the Conservatives.

One potential way the federal NDP might save itself here is by doing to the Liberals what’s been done to them in the past. Singh needs to find a way to outflank Trudeau on some key issue and become the de-facto alternative to Poilievre’s CPC. That would allow Singh to turn the familiar Liberal argument around strategic voting against them, and perhaps attract some new Liberal switchers rather than losing them.

But that would require Singh to take the same sort of risk that Trudeau took in 2015 by dispensing with the conventional wisdom around the importance of balanced budgets. There’s some major irony here. Singh’s victory in the 2017 race to replace Tom Mulcair was driven at least in part by the Trudeau-like image he offered as a young, stylish and social media-savvy leader. If Singh wants to live up to that comparison, he’ll have to do more than just look the part. Trudeau’s big breakthrough in 2015 was a result of the risks he and his team were willing to make, ones that could just as easily have backfired and cemented their status as the third-place party in Parliament. Instead, they outflanked the NDP on its left and secured a majority.

Now, the NDP needs to return the favour. Barring some sort of tectonic shift in our political landscape, the party won’t have a realistic shot at winning next year’s election. But if they want to prevent Poilievre from eating the rest of its lunch with traditional blue-collar voters and stop the Liberals from activating the strategic voting klaxon, they’re going to have to take some bigger swings than they have to date. Yes, they might strike out. But at the rate things are going, they’re headed there anyway.

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The federal NDP must be kicking itself for dumping Tom Mulcair so quickly after the 2015 election.

Why? He got the NDP into this mess. The problem was only partly that Trudeau outflanked the NDP to the left--the problem was partly that Mulcair outflanked himself, by shifting the NDP to the right. He would have no answers for this situation.
I like Jagmeet Singh. He's a really nice fellow, a good person who wants to do good things, and for all that he looks flashy he went through some tough stuff in his youth. But I wish Charlie Angus had won the leadership instead of him. Jagmeet just never really had . . . impact.

Looking to be another "time for new pigs at the trough" election.

What annoys me about this situation is, because of a friendly media, Pierre Poilievre has been able to persuade a bunch of working class people to vote for him by offering them . . . nothing. Less than nothing, really. But that point tends to get carefully slid over with all the talk of "populism".

I do agree, though--the NDP need to go bold or go home.

There has always been blue collar conservatives, way more than the NDP and many labour uniins care to admit publicly.

The key is to attract labour and swing factory voter/workers with jobs and long lasting projects and add daycare to attract all family members.

This article leans too much on image and working class costumes worn by politicians with manicures. It works but not with everyone. It's better to campaign on creating jobs with actual projects

So you’re hoping for 2011 all over again essentially

The NDP and Liberals have to join forces to defeat the Conservatives. If the NDP keeps on attacking the Liberals, they will likely both go down in the next election. The NDP does NOT take the climate crisis seriously, which is maddening. The Progressive Conservatives and Reform joined forces and Harper defeated the Liberals -- ushering in disastrous years for the environment. Now the NDP and Liberals have to recognize they need each other.

I don't think a merger is politically possible. But a negotiated agreemment stronger than a simple supply agreement to set aside differences for a defined period (say three years) and focus on a selection of policies where Libs and NDPers can agree, could work, especially if focussed on the primary cincerns of the majority, such as housing.

The key is to keep party structures intact while introducing some flexibility. This is important because too many Lib and NDP members are hardcore and will abandon their party if a formal merger was proposed. At least one additional party will pop up and further fragment the centre-left voter choice.

A three-year agreement with an automatic built in review near the end would possibly allow the appearance of one moderate-progressive Liberal Democratic ballot box to check instead of two, the formation of a cabinet with both parties present at the table, and a much more powerful "majority" in government to enact powerful, bold policies on climate and social justice in the face of vociferous vested interests and screaming ideologues on the right. Essentially, a coalition with a mutual expiry date.

A timeline agreement allows both parties a cancellation clause and room for renegotiation for a second (or more) terms if the first one succeeds and is widely supported by the majority of the electorate. Party flacks will thus see the benefits of compromise in some principles and policies to acheive greater success overall, and likely won't leave in a partisan huff if there is an expiry date ahead to be used if necessary.

Our current form of politics has created a massive pool of mature strategic voters to counter the Conservatives AND slap Liberals wgen needed. This is an excellent resource to tap. A single Lib-Dem ballot box will also place a viable choice directly in front of immature younger voters who are too reactionary for their own good and who would otherwise vote in anger against Trudeau and his tired status quo government for someone else who -- if they truly cared enough -- offers absolutely nothing in return to assuage their concerns about housing, the cost of living and climate change.

I can imagine some kind of non-compete agreement. Say the two parties hire a reputable pollster to take a serious riding-by-riding nationwide poll, and agree that in any given riding, whichever party is ahead in that poll runs the candidate in the federal election. Something like that.

I can't see anything closer than that not being deeply damaging to both parties, until you get to actual merger (aka "the Liberals swallowing the NDP"), which would be kind of good for the Liberals but require social democrats to start a new party.