You may be wondering why I never have much to say about the NDP, or Jack Layton on this
blogsite. The reason is pretty simple. The NDP is not directly relevant to our present, and future electoral prospects. In the past, the NDP had a lot of environmentalists who tolerated the NDP radical left elements, because there really wasn’t a political home for environmentalists in Canada. It is certainly true that some hard left elements in the NDP are environmentalists also. They make their home there on two policy fronts, socialism, and environmentalism. The problem is that their policy proscriptions are largely ineffectul, because they depend solely on sanctions, and the heavy hand of regulation, while ignoring the potential for market mechanisms to really get the job done.
The NDP carries three generations of political baggage. From their class struggle, and hard socialist roots, through the long years of Labour Congress influence within the NDP, they have cemented the public perception of their party that is simply not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of Canadians. For those Canadian rooted in left wing ideology, the NDP is their home, and there is nothing the Green Party could, or should do to win their support.
So these are the reasons that the NDP is not very relevant to the Green Party of Canada. Our supporters are turned off by the hard left baggage of the NDP, and their consequent inability to grow in the centre of the Canadian political left/right spectrum. The NDP’s current supporters will not likely gravitate towards a Green Party that embraces market mechanisms, and is skeptical of the ability of Government to punish our way to a cleaner environment.
The NDP is not completely irrelevant though. Under Jack Layton, they have tried to distanced themselves from the ‘class struggle’ rhetoric of the past. They do play a role, in a riding by riding basis of chipping away at the left Liberal support. The continued survival of the NDP, and/or Bloc is currently a necessary condition to elect Green Party Parliamentarians. It will take a tight three, four, or even five way (In Quebec) splits in the vote for the Green Party to win a plurality in any of their target ridings.
From a historical perspective, they have played a valid, and significant part in canadian politics. Most Canadians would accept that many of the progressive public Institutions such as public Health Insurance, and Unemployment Insurance were policies directly stemming from NDP pressure. As the first Party to publicly endorse, and support environmental causes, this historical role was useful in building recognition amongst the electorate of the significant impact of environmental regulation on public health and safety. Certainly in the early years, what few experienced political Campaigners the Green Party of Canada boasted of, cut their teeth in the NDP. I will offer a begrudging tip of my hat to them on these accounts.
The growth of the Green Party of Canada is not limited by the traditional left/right divide in the electorate. This has been amply demonstrated by the fact that the green Party of Canada’s support now comes in almost equal measure from former Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP’ers. In my opinion, GPC growth at the expense of the NDP has pretty much come to an end, and the future growth prospects of the Greens lie amongst people comfortable at the centre of the left/right political spectrum.
The NDP remains very bitter at the perceived betrayal of their cause by environmentalists. Dippers can be regularly seen, (and heard!), adding the GPC supporter numbers to their own in an effort to prove that the GPC has stolen seats from them. This analysis has little basis in reality though, because at the most 35% of Green supporters would even consider voting NDP. The NDP would do well to consider the reality that the Green Party of Canada’s future success will depend upon further fragmentation of the political centre, and the consequent reduced probability of majority governments being formed in the Canadian Parliament.
The fact that the NDP recently came closer to taking part in coalition government than they ever have before can be attributed to the rise of the Green Party of Canada more than any other single factor. As we increase our strength, and fragment the vote in increasing numbers of targeted beachhead ridings, the NDP will have a chance equal to the GPC of benefitting from this turn of events to tip the plurality in their favour, and return more members to Parliament. This of course turns to the benefit of the Green Party of Canada. A small Green caucus in Parliament will wield disproportionate influence over environmental policy by participating in increasingly likely coalition governments. Since this is the raison d’etre of the Green party of Canada, I don’t share the animosity of my fellow Greens towards the NDP. I disagree with 90% of their policy prescriptions, including much of their environmental policy, but I welcome their impact on the electoral landscape.
In conclusion, I will say that the impact of the NDP on the Green Party of Canada is largely of historical significance. The limited appeal of the NDP prohibits future growth of the Green Party of Canada at their expense. The long term costs of repositioning the Green platform to win votes at the NDP’s expense would have very limited success in the short run, and would permanently cripple the growth prospects of the GPC in the future. The NDP’s continued existence is imperative to the Green Party’s plans to win pluralities in the upcoming election(s). And that just about sums up the Dippers relevance to the GPC.