The 2021 federal election did not end the status quo in parliament, but by winning another minority government, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has gained at least two more years to build the country in its image.
On the Liberals’ left, the Green Party is fragmented and the NDP is spilling water.
Even though the Liberal campaign has had a poor start, the party has suffered from the ravages of being in power since 2015, and its opponents are unwilling to start campaigning again.
The NDP increased its vote share in the 2021 federal election from 15.9 percent to 17.7 percent. It increased the number of its MPs from 24 to 25. However, these figures are far from the growth experienced when Jack Layton was the leader.
In Quebec, the party’s vote fell from 10.7 percent in 2019 to 9.8 percent in 2021. Former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was shown the door in 2015 after receiving 25.4 percent of the vote in Quebec.
regionalism in canada
Canadian politics is highly regional, and it is a major challenge for political parties to tailor their messages in a way that can be adapted to Canadian territories.
The framing problem has been a persistent problem for the NDP in Quebec since 2016. The party is in decline, struggling to attract significant local stars or support. Only Quebec MP Alexandre Boularis is more popular than his own party.
Even in Laurier Stay-Marie, a leftist ride organized by the NDP from 2011 to 2018, the party was unable to defeat the Liberal Steven Guillebault.
What explains the NDP’s difficulties in Quebec?
The answer is clearly a combination of factors. The NDP has little control over some of these, and more control over others. But the party still needs to do some serious introspection.
party system dynamics
The first factor working against the NDP is the dynamics of the Canadian party system. Liberals are seen as a natural alternative to conservatives, so voters fall back on them to block the Conservatives. This is the strength of the first-past-the-post system.
The fear of a conservative government was very real during this election. The election showed the Conservatives in the lead during the second third of the campaign. The prospect of a Conservative government would have encouraged voters who had previously voted for the NDP to return to the safe haven of the Liberal Party.
On a longer historical scale, 42.9 percent of the NDP in Quebec in 2011 came in the wake of a sponsorship scandal that hurt the Liberal brand in Quebec. This result is therefore not a barometer that should be used to assess the performance of the NDP in Quebec. However, one may wonder why the party is performing below the national level. One should note that the early 2000s were lean years in Quebec: the party won 4.5 percent of the vote in 2004, 7.5 percent in 2006, and 12.2 percent in 2008, before climbing to 42.9 percent in 2011.
effect of polarization
The trajectory of the campaign is another variable to explain the difficulty of the NDP moving forward into 2021. By making the fight against COVID-19 the central issue of the campaign, the Liberals polarized the situation with the Conservatives, leaving little room for it. other parties. Assault rifles was a second issue that framed the campaign, and left the other players out of the picture.
Then the now infamous question was put to Yves-François Blanchett by the moderator of the English debate. In Quebec, it polarized liberals and bloc Quebecois. The leader of the bloc had a lot of capital for outrage that he was ready to use, and he managed to build on it by the end of the campaign.
Data compiled by Université de Montréal’s Claire Durand clearly shows an increase for the block in the seven days following the “question”. Despite the conclusions of Angus Reid, who drew unfair comparisons between Bloc’s performance in 2019 and 2021, it was a turning point for the Bloc campaign in Quebec, as earlier attempts to bring issues of identity or secularism into Blanchett’s campaign were unsuccessful. Were were .
In any of these polarization issues, it was difficult for the NDP to come out on top. However, the party would have had more room for maneuver and credibility on the third issue if some of its lawmakers had not expressed such a simplified vision of Quebec society during the year leading up to the campaign. This made it easy for some political scientists in Quebec to portray the NDP as a group of parliamentarians bashing Quebec.
The NDP has often explained its low popularity in Quebec by the importance of the sovereignty vote. However, this explanation does little to explain the party’s current marginalization. Support for sovereignty has been waning since 1995 and was not the case among younger voters. Even among Quebec Solidaire voters, nearly 50 percent do not share the pro-independence orientation of party leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and his inner circle.
So while the dynamics of the party system and the polarizing campaign explain part of the NDP’s weakness in Quebec, the sovereignty vote explains little of it. On the other hand, four factors could have favored the NDP: the collapse of the Green Party, a slight decline in the popularity of the Liberals, Bloc Québécois’ support for the tunnel project linking Quebec City and Lewis, and the dwindling appeal of sovereignty options in Quebec. But this did not help the party. Why not?
Layton and Sherbrooke Declaration
The NDP’s good years in Quebec weren’t just the result of a sponsorship scandal. As my colleague David McGrain and I have shown, two other factors also played a role: first, the party’s potential voters in Quebec and the Quebec MNA’s adherence to the principles of the Sherbrooke Declaration, and second, the ability of Layton, and later Mulcair, to To embody the spirit of that declaration.
The Sherbrooke Declaration marked a clear break from the sense of centralization that has characterized the history of the NDP in Quebec. It went a long way in recognizing the legitimacy of the social and cultural struggles being waged by some nationalists in Quebec.
In addition, both Layton and Mulcair had long experiences with Quebec society. They knew that they could not simply recite the articles of the Sherbrooke Declaration, but that they had to incorporate the sentiment and subtleties that were part of the politics of Canada and Quebec. It is necessary to quickly understand what territory needs to be occupied, and what cannot be given to other parties.
In 2011, Layton’s appearance in Quebec’s popular TV show “Tout le Monde en Parle” was a home run. Singh’s preparations for the show earlier this year were comparatively mediocre.
Both these elements of the Layton era have been missing from the NDP since 2016. The feeling that the NDP had already accepted Quebec was evident long before the 2021 campaign began.
During the campaign, Singh missed many opportunities to embody the spirit of the Sherbrooke Declaration. He didn’t even indicate it at the start of the campaign, during the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Layton’s death. The leader poorly navigated the perceived issues of respect for provincial jurisdiction. If he had made these mistakes during his first campaign, he could be blamed for inexperience. But it is hard to justify them in the second campaign.
It is very difficult to understand why the NDP organization has withheld the concept of federalism, the most important legacy of the Late period. Behind the scenes, word is that the best organizers of the Layton era have left the party to work for the provincial wing of the NDP, which has been successful in western Canada. If we combine this with the lack of any reference to Quebec in the Broadbent Institute’s principles for the renewal of social democracy, and the fact that the youth wing of the NDP only runs presidential candidates who do not understand French, then It is easy to measure the growing gulf between the NDP and Quebec’s francophone federalist left.
If the party in Quebec is of no avail, its national organization and current leadership must be blamed for this failure. Its vision and lack of political prowess in Quebec help to explain why former federalist NDP voters voted instead of liberals or even bloc Québécois, and not the party where they were misunderstood.