Perhaps the real story will be how the Conservatives react to the new NDP leader?


Prime MinisterTHUNDER BAY – The Conservatives have enjoyed a long period in the House of Commons where the Official Opposition New Democrats have been running with not all the cylinders firing at peak efficiency. Under the interim leadership cycle, in Question Period, the party at times has not been as focused as it could be. This weekend, that will end. The New Democrats will have a new leader, and will chart a path toward the future of the party.

That should be good for the Conservatives. The lack of permanent leaders atop both of the opposition parties has led the Conservatives in many ways to grow a little lazy, a little arrogant and a little too comfortable. It can be seen in some of the decisions this government has made.

Maybe the Conservatives will see the NDP as a worthy foe to actually train for and get into top political shape. So far it appears that Conservatives have become a little too fat and a little too out of shape.

For a party that promised to do politics differently, the comfortable Conservatives have not taken the full opportunity to put in a real conservative agenda of less spending. The Conservatives have boosted spending to levels larger than ever.

When it comes to full respect and understanding of personal freedoms, the Conservatives have taken a more hamfisted approach on many issues. Seeking to make society safer, instead of building better communities and encouraging better citizens, the Conservatives are set to spend billions on new prisons.

In a world where energy is power, the Conservatives are set to ship that power to China. Meanwhile eastern Canadian markets are stuck purchasing crude oil from South America and the Middle East.

In a world where dollars are tight, and there are plenty of problems at home, the Conservatives are looking to spend $35 billion on fighter jets. Why? We are not a nation seeking to fight wars?

There are real solutions out there, and for the past months, the Conservatives have taken paths that many of their traditional supporters don’t see as conservative.

The stage is set in Canada for some massive big projects. The question will be what direction the Government of Canada will take?

If the goal is a safer society, then instead of building prisons, build up education and build up our youth. With a billion dollars invested in youth centres and education programs, Canada could easily move toward a much brighter, safer and more Canadian society. If simply putting people behind bars worked to make a society safer, the United States would be the safest country on earth.

If the goal is to fight crime, then investing in crime prevention, not in crime reaction would likely reap more benefits.

The Conservatives are offering what their hard core base might like. But that steady diet of partisanship ‘red meat’ is likely to turn a lot of Canadians off.

Nik Nanos, in the latest latest “Nanos Poll” states “In terms of the research on the NDP, the party is well positioned with respect to the views Canadians have of the NDP both as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and even in terms of being a potential government. It is clear that Jack Layton was the lynch-pin of support galvanizing the NDP breakthrough. The question remains, in the absence of Jack Layton, what the future path of the NDP looks like”.

“I thought it was interesting that about 18 percent of individuals who said they voted NDP in the last election did so because of policy (compared to 27 percent that said they voted NDP because of Layton). From a research perspective, in one respect, the NDP is personality led on the popular front in terms of its attraction with voters. This is likely different than NDP partisans who are more policy focused. Not surprising is that Canadians see the ideal NDP leader as being an individual of integrity and charisma”.

Nanos adds, “The fine line this weekend for the NDP will be for the policy driven party members to select the type of leader Canadians expect, while at the same time delivering on populist appeal. Likewise, for fair-weather political junkies (i.e., the majority of Canadians), they will likely tune in to see how well the leadership process is run by the NDP and also whether the winner measures up. Both are key signals that will drive the intermediate term fortunes of the NDP”.

The other issue, one not usually covered will be in how Canadians are seeing the federal Conservatives as keeping their promises, and in offering a contrast to the former Liberal government. If people are seeing in the Conservatives that there really does not appear to be all that much difference between the two traditional parties, a dynamic and engaged New Democratic Party could be taking what is left of the Liberal support and eating into some of the ridings that Conservatives made gains during the last election.

It is a long way until the next federal election, and all parties have the time to get their message out to voters.

Perhaps the real story will be how the Conservatives react to the new NDP leader?

James Murray

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