Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Québec discovering its options

Sure, I actively try to shut my eyes to polls these days. What progressive dude wouldn’t, in a world where the HarperCons continue to defy gravity despite their overflowing ballast of rancid bullcrap?

That’s right, bullcrap.

But there is a spark of amazing news. The NDP currently appearing top of the federalist pops in Québec.

It’s one poll. And we’ve had the NDP topping the Tories in Québec in past polls, only to plummet to the 13% range they are used to there. So, it’s far too early for them to celebrate.

But to be in the position where it’s even conceivable that the New Democrats can place second to the BQ is remarkable. It’s the kind of example that Layton should (and does, to be fair) trumpet whenever he can. It was once unthinkable they’d ever win a single seat in Alberta, or in Québec, but then they did it. Then it was unthinkable they could ever top the Liberals and Cons in Québec to become a premier federalist option, but they’re now at that stage. What unthinkables are left? That they could ever become the Official Opposition, or even take government?

Why not, they should say. New Democrats eat unthinkables for breakfast.

The trick for Dippers in Québec for years now is that they’ve been torn two ways. People who identify principally as social democrats have tended to side with the Bloc, as that makes strategic sense in most ridings. People who identify principally as federalists have tended to side with one of the big two federalist parties, as it makes strategic sense for them. Québec’s federalist social democrats have, ironically, rarely turned to the NDP – Canada’s federalist social democratic party.

But when people like Thomas Mulcair talk like this, it helps their cause enormously:

Mr. Mulcair added that unlike the Bloc, the NDP not only expresses its opposition to the oil industry in the West, but can do something about it with MPs all over the country.

“The Bloc can only talk about the tar sands in Quebec,” Mr. Mulcair said, comparing that party to a hockey team made up entirely of defencemen. “That’s the difference with the NDP, which is a social-democratic, pan-Canadian party, with a strong track record that is attracting more and more people in Quebec.”

Mulcair’s already helped to “normalise” the idea of the NPD* in the province, but he helps more when he draws the political landscape in this way. If you want a social democratic federal system with real muscle, you’re going to need to look beyond the Bloc.

Combine that smart message with Layton’s perennial magnetism, and what seems to me to be a general appetite for anti-incumbency (growth of Québec Solidaire as an example), and there is big space for the NDP to move. Downsides, of course, are that seat translations are always going to be very tricky. It’s reasonable to suspect that much of the new (and old, for that matter) NDP support is trapped in safe, stalwart BQ ridings – we just don’t know.

To have steady popular support, at least, is encouraging. I’ve hoped this might come about for a long while – to sustain it, Jack best have Lac-St-Jean and Gaspésie on his travel itinerary.

I just might keep my beady, squinted eye on the polls after all.

* Québec friends, a dumb question for you. Is there any French nickname for New Democrats (ones that aren’t rude, of course) that play off the acronym? Enpédistes, maybe, in the vein of Péquistes? And, if there isn’t, can we start?

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2 Responses

  1. D.I.D. says:

    Since the recent NDP surge in the province and the general popularity of Mr. Layton, I think the word “jaquiste” is starting to gain ground in Québec. I am not from the province, but I have seen this new monicker floated once or twice in the French media of that province…

  2. […] doesn’t do things by halves, does it? Some of us have begged and implored the NDP to focus its energies on Québec: to play to its social democratic credentials, and to take […]

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