Back on April 8, I wrote that the New Democrats’ electoral hopes were “slip, slip, sliding away.” So much for my expertise as a political forecaster. A little over two weeks later, the NDP campaign surge is all over the news. According to the Nanos Nightly Tracking poll, the socialists are in a statistical tie with the Liberals for second place nationally—the Conservatives at 39.2 per cent hold a 14 point advantage over the Grits whose support has slipped to 25.6 per cent. The NDP is at 23.6 per cent. (There is a margin of error of ±2.8 per cent.)
The specter of a government that includes Jack Layton and other Dippers at the cabinet table hovers about and portends a dark era in Canadian politics. The last time Canadians were faced with a socialist government in charge of a major economy with a large population, they witnessed an unmitigated disaster. I speak, of course, of Bob Rae’s NDP government in Ontario during those dark days of the first half of the 1990s.
Those in British Columbia will also remember the scandal-ridden NDP governments of the same era. BC’s NDP leader Michael Harcourt resigned in the mid 1990s over the “Bingogate” scandal, and his replacement, Glen Clark, resigned over the “Fast Ferry Scandal” and “Casino Scandal” at the end of the 1990s.
The Dippers usually get a free ride when it comes to scrutiny by the mainstream media: their outlandish campaign promises often go unchallenged. Now that they hold top spot in Quebec and second place nationally, however, they are already waffling under media pressure over campaign pledges, saying that they might not be able to pay for $3.6 billion worth of green spending promised in their platform for the first year of a new mandate. Oops!
Ontario seems to be the only province in which the NDP is not surging. The Tories have 47.8 per cent support in Ontario followed by the Grits at 29.3 per cent and the NDP at the more traditional level of 16.9 per cent—memories of the damage done to Ontario by Bob Rae’s NDP government are hard for Ontarians to forget or forgive.