All posts by Sally Housser

The Hunt for an Opposition Leader: Who will the NDP choose to chart their path to power?

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In a campaign that is struggling to attract attention outside of NDP circles, our NDP insider Sally Houser lays out the issues and discusses the four candidates and their vision for the party.

On September 18 members of the New Democratic Party of Canada began casting their ballots for a new leader. Although the four candidates made their final pitch to voting members at a “Leadership Showcase” in Hamilton on September 17, it may be as late as October 15 before a winner is decided; the party’s new voting system allows a full week in between ballots to allow candidates to woo the supporters of whoever comes last in the rounds. A candidate needs to win with 50% +1, so we could have a winner on October 1, 8, or 15.

Though the leadership race has not been characterized by wildly differentiated policy proposals, there have been some ideas floated that makes each candidate stand out:

  • Singh has called for the decriminalization of the possession of all drugs
  • Caron committed to bringing in a guaranteed income for all Canadians
  • Ashton has promised free post-secondary education
  • Angus plans to dismantle Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)

Climate change talk has ranged from Ashton as the most vehemently opposed to any new pipelines to Angus who, while hardly crying “drill baby drill”, is asking New Democrats to think about transitioning to a renewable economy without throwing a generation of oil and gas workers under the bus.

Meet The Candidates – Who are they and how will they fare?

Charlie Angus – The ‘Prominent and Stable’ Choice
Elected in 2008 to represent the Riding of Timmins-James Bay in Northern Ontario, Angus has been a prominent and often quoted fixture in the NDP caucus. He has significant support among long time party members as well as outside the urban centres. Expected to finish in the top two on the first ballot, it will be crucial for him whether it is Ashton or Caron that gets knocked out in the first round as many of Caron’s supporters view Angus as their second choice.

 
Niki Ashton – The ‘Millennial and Young Woman’ Choice
Ashton is the only candidate in the race to be taking a second crack at leadership, having run to replace Jack Layton in the 2012. She has a significant amount of support from millennials, particularly young woman. Though her fundraising has been good, her campaign has had some stumbles and seems to be running out of gas. She placed last in the 2012 contest. Her team will have to work hard to get those millennials voting to ensure she doesn’t suffer the same fate this time around.

Guy Caron – The ‘Slow and Steady’ Choice
Elected in Jack Layton’s Quebec orange wave of 2011, Caron represents the riding of Rimouski. His campaign started slow, initially posting poor fundraising numbers but in recent weeks significant endorsements from well-known and respected New Democrats have given him some momentum. Coming on strong in the end game may be enough to edge out Ashton and avoid coming last on the first ballot. He has a lot of second choice support so if he stays in he does have an outside chance to come up the middle.

Jagmeet Singh – The ‘Toe to Toe with Trudeau’ Choice
Singh represents the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton in the Ontario legislature and has served as the Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP. He has positioned himself as the candidate that can best grow the flagging NDP membership base and can go toe-to-toe with Justin Trudeau on flash and style. His team claims that they have signed up 47,000 new members. If those numbers ring true and they’re able to motivate those new members to vote, he could get close enough to 50% on the first ballot to make a win virtually guaranteed. If his vote isn’t motivated, he may not have enough second-choice support to take him over the edge.

POLITICAL PERSPECTIVES – A VIEW FROM THE WEST: END GAME EDITION

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By: Sally Housser

Here we are, finally at the home stretch in what has been the longest political campaign in modern Canadian history.  With the Duffy trial and balmy days of summer but a distant memory, all parties are starting to move into what politicos refer to as the “End Game”. With all sides running out of runway for their “Air Wars”, campaigns shift their manpower to the local level, focusing on their get out the vote efforts for election day.  The campaigns will rely on significant investments in paid advertising to carry their message while spin doctors and strategists become foot soldiers in the lead up to election day.

During the election End Game, the staff who have been cloistered in their respective campaign headquarters for the past two and a half months will start to fan out across the country to help the efforts on a riding by riding basis.  Voter identification and targeted polling, which has been going on throughout the campaign, helps determine the strategy of where resources are allocated in these final days. The past week would have been spent hammering out organisational strategy based on likelihood of winning a particular constituency.

In the case of the west, it is likely that the Liberals are moving people from ridings that now appear to be locked up, such as in Atlantic Canada and Toronto, to areas of potential growth like Calgary and Winnipeg. The NDP will be scaling back efforts in more ambitious targets and focusing on their incumbents in Alberta and Manitoba plus a couple of seats in Edmonton and Saskatoon where they are still polling strongly.  The Conservatives are also on the back foot, under threat in about a dozen seats across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Usually the Conservatives would pull people away from their ridings in Alberta and Saskatchewan to help make gains in Ontario, particularly in the 905 areas. However they are now faced with the unusual situation of having to put more resources into protecting incumbents in those areas.

When it comes down to British Columbia there is currently a three-way toss up. BC is traditionally politically volatile and this election is no different. While the NDP had dominated in the early days of the election it is now any party’s game.  This can mean that either the seats are divided up evenly between the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives but it also means, that with very little change in the polls it can tip significantly in one party’s favour. The Conservatives will be relying on a split on the centre left which will allow them to hang onto their incumbent seats.

It has been said many times before that the only poll that matters is on election day and that is certainly true about this very long race with three competing parties. Regardless of the result, Canadians west of BC can expect a long night as it is unlikely we will know what our government looks like until the last votes are counted.

Navigator Ltd. Senior Consultant Sally Housser is a veteran of many federal and provincial NDP campaigns where she has led the party’s communications and election strategies. Most recently, she served as the press secretary to Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley in her historic victory earlier this year, following time working in the Government of Manitoba and in Ottawa, notably in the office of the late Jack Layton.

POLITICAL PERSPECTIVES – BATTLEGROUND WEST

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By: Sally Housser

In the 2011 election Stephen Harper’s Conservative party took 51 out of 56 seats in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Following the Electoral Boundaries Commission redistribution in 2012, there are now 62 seats up for grabs in those provinces and many ridings have a very different makeup than last election.

If the Conservatives are going to hang on to power come October 19th they will have to hold on to their western seats in order to make up for what looks to be a virtual shut out in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.  However, The addition of 6 new ridings in Alberta and the significant boundary changes in Saskatchewan mean team blue is facing strong challenges from both the NDP and Liberals who see real opportunities to make gains.

In Regina and Saskatoon the electoral districts used to have both significant urban and rural sections. The NDP dominated the urban vote but received very few votes in the rural parts of the ridings.  Vote percentages help to illustrate how this configuration hindered the NDP. In the 2011 election they took 32.3% of the vote but won no seats while the Liberals took 8% of the vote and won one. The redistribution means more purely urban seats and a greater vote efficiency for the NDP. They will be looking to pick up all 3 seats in Saskatoon plus at least one in Regina. The Liberals will almost certainly retain their one seat in Wascana with long-time MP Ralph Goodale.

The increase in seats in Alberta reflects the tremendous population growth the province has seen in the past decade, particularly in Edmonton and Calgary.  This has the potential for both the Liberals and NDP to make in roads into the cities, particularly following the Provincial NDP victory in the spring. Not only do the centre left parties do better in urban areas but also with younger voters. Alberta is Canada’s youngest province and changing demographics lead to a shifting electoral landscape. While the NDP is strongly targeting seats in Central Edmonton as well as Lethbridge, the Liberals are looking to make gains in Calgary. The Conservatives will be counting on Liberal and New Democrat votes to cancel each other out so that they can come up the middle and retain the seats but it is increasingly unlikely that they will keep everything they currently  hold.

Manitoba, having no additional ridings added and very little change in the way of boundary distribution, may still see some electoral shifts. In 2011 the NDP narrowly lost a long held riding of Elmwood-Transcona to Conservative Lawrence Toet. This time the NDP are running a priority campaign with Daniel Blaikie, the son of veteran MP, and provincial cabinet Minister Bill Blaikie, who held the riding for many years.  The Liberals have been polling very well province wide, partially due to a weaker than normal NDP vote in a province where a 15 year New Democrat government is acting as a drag in the polls. They are likely to pick up former Cabinet Minister Shelley Glover’s seat in St. Boniface and have a strong possibility of picking up two additional Conservative seats in the south of Winnipeg.  

Even with this analysis Conservatives will still retain the highest number of seats in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba but this election is very much a game of inches and 15 to 20 seats, particularly in the conservative western stronghold,  are inches the Conservatives can’t afford to lose.

Navigator Ltd. Senior Consultant Sally Housser is a veteran of many federal and provincial NDP campaigns where she has led the party’s communications and election strategies. Most recently, she served as the press secretary to Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley in her historic victory earlier this year, following time working in the Government of Manitoba and in Ottawa, notably in the office of the late Jack Layton.