An interesting analysis from the American publication, The New Republic, questions whether the New Democratic Party, already facing a difficult future, can avoid self-destruction.
Senior editor Jeet Heer writes what NDP faithful refuse to hear - that they spent the last decade colluding with Harper to destroy the Liberal Party of Canada.
Harper’s deepest political goal was not just to defeat the Liberals politically but to eliminate them as a party. Gerry Nicholls, who worked with Harper in the 1990s in the right-wing lobby group the National Citizens Coalition, wrote in a 2011Globe and Mail column that Harper’s “desire to eliminate the Liberals is something he and I discussed way back in the days when we worked together at the National Citizens Coalition. His theory, as explained to me, was that conservatism would be better served in this country if Canada had a two-party system, one that pitted right against left, free enterprise against socialism, Conservatives against New Democrats. He believed that, in such a polarized political environment, a conservative-oriented party would have a huge advantage over its left-wing rival.”
Over the last ten years, until this recent election, Harper has been remarkably successful in trying to build up the NDP as the main rival and tear the Liberals apart. He’s done this partially by aiming his most destructive fire on the Liberals and also by occasionally working with the NDP, building them up as credible opposition. Harper’s polarization strategy reached it’s peak in the 2011 election when the Liberals under the hapless Michael Ignatieff received less than 19 percent of the vote and only 34 seats. The New Democrats became the official opposition for the first time, with nearly 31 percent of the popular vote and 103 seats, while the Conservatives won a majority with their 40 percent of the popular vote giving them 166 seats.
...In the desperate last days of the elections, Harper started making some strange moves, even going to an event hosted by the disgraced former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. This embrace of Ford marked the end not just of a squalid, racist campaign but also Harper’s dream to live in a Canada where the Liberal Party was extinct. Although the Liberal Party remains an affront to both Harper and political theory, it regained its role as the voice of the Canadian center-left, which is where most voters are.
In fact, the party that is facing the existential question posed by Duverger’s law is not the Liberals but the NDP. While the NDP can and does win in provinces like Manitoba and Alberta, it is facing a bleak national future. With the Liberals once again presenting themselves as a progressive alternative to the Conservatives, does Canada need two left of center parties? If Duverger’s law ever does hit Canada, it could be the NDP that gets kicked to the curb.