Thursday August 19, 2021 | NATIONAL
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
“I absolutely believe in the vision of Jack Layton, that we elect more NDP, people are better off,” said NDP Leader Jack Layton during a media event on a busy Edmonton street this morning.
At dissolution of the 43rd Parliament, of 338 seats the NDP had 24 (Liberals 155, Conservatives 119, Bloc Quebecois 32, Independents 5, and Greens 2; one unoccupied). But for the past 22 months there has been enough influenced brought to bear by the NDP in order to sway things in the House of Commons to the benefit of everyday people. The NDP pushed on various aspects of legislation and in committees.
The Layton legacy:
In 2011 the late Jack Layton as NDP Leader swept the country (notably with more seats gained in Quebec), in what has remained known as “the orange wave”. He told anyone who suggested that he was dreaming too big that they were just being defeatist. He talked about love for one another, and that this had the power to change things; this had never been done in politics before (though the NDP’s Tommy Douglas did take that approach, it was before the day and age of 24/7 television and social media).
Singh takes it to another level of dreaming big: “We’ll actually do it,” he says in this 2021 campaign regarding the many things that if changed would improve the financial and/or lifestyle scenario for millions of Canadians.
Layton achieved 103 seats in 2011 (a gain of 67), surpassing the 43 that Broadbent achieved for the NDP in 1988. The Conservatives in 2011 still ended up with a majority with 166 seats (a gain of 23 seats), and the Liberals were almost wiped out (34 seats achieved, which was a loss of 43).
Through the 44th federal election campaign Singh now continues to illustrate where and how the Liberal government has been slow or inactive on key issues until, if and when, they are pushed to act. He wedges in on those gaps.
Pandemic-related examples would include the CERB requiring a push upward to a livable level (from $1,000 per month to $2,000 per month), as well as the wage subsidy for workers that required a realistic bump (from 10% to 75%).
And for action in the days ahead, another example is Jagmeet Singh saying the NDP will “take on big tech”. He claims that Canada has been slow to do that.
Today right off the top of his head, Singh gave examples of how France already directly taxes the revenues of large tech corporations (which has immediate benefits, he points out). Australia has taken on Facebook where the work of journalists is to be compensated if published in the social media platform (which will not only protect the loss of professional creative work but will support and boost local media businesses). The NDP seems primed to move ahead with this sort of action in Canada.
Singh also pushed the NDP weight onto the health-care funding issue today, saying that “if a province or territory wants to invest in health-are, we will be there”, including an investment in hiring more health-care workers. Health-care transfers are delivered from the federal government to provinces and territories; the amounts of those transfers have been under discussion in the past year — something Trudeau was open to and where provinces pushed to get more funds as they see many years ahead of dealing with the problems laid bare by the pandemic (including long-term care and mental health supports).
Momentum and the youth vote:
There were “lots of honks” as Singh noted, during the media session this morning, made available to media across the country via Zoom. “I think there’s something building.”
“Young people are going to make history in this election,” said the NDP Leader again today. He has become a phenom on TikTok, making a high-profile presence to a young audience in recent months in that quirky short-performance social media platform.
Singh has the attention of youth through the TikTok quick-video medium that probably is not politically wise for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau who must now maintain his stature as prime minister on the global stage. TikTok was probably never contemplated by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole given his voter base (by comparison, O’Toole chose a bare-armed approach to appeal on a magazine-like platform document cover and he wears runners to all of his in-studio media sessions).
Singh has at least 625,000 followers; some videos have surpassed 5 million viewers. [Tech notes: TikTok is formatted to be viewed on a smartphone, so vertical video is best. Short videos are most popular – like 15 seconds long, but can reach 3 minutes in length.]
Whether the youth enthusiasm translates into more votes for the NDP in 2021 is a challenge that has been faced by every political party in Canada for decades. The untapped youth vote is what can tip an election, as was seen in 2015 when Trudeau tapped that resource and with it achieved a Liberal majority; by losing their grip on the youth vote in 2019 (among other things), the Liberals fell to minority government status.
The number of seats:
It’s not that having a majority solves everything. The NDP with their 24 seats in 2019-2021 have proven that. It could be argued that the NDP MPs during the pandemic made the biggest difference for Canadians by shaping and molding legislative outcomes to the benefit of the widest number of Canadians.
With the recent taste of 24 and the memory of 103, the NDP are driven to achieve more in the September 20, 2021 election results. It’s unlikely they expect to translate too many would-be Conservative voters into NDP votes. And perhaps only a handful of disenchanted Liberal voters might swing.
For the NDP, the numbers game is about finding more of those who haven’t voted before, or who have strong concerns about government leadership of the past two years or more.
Youth, family & seniors:
In addition to youth whose interest will mostly only be captured by a leader who ‘gets’ their challenges, that desired vote-swing might also be found among Canadian seniors who have found themselves negatively impacted by Liberal policies in the last few years (most notably the clawback of the GIS from low-income seniors who took CERB/CRB benefits).
That sort of personal hit on the pocketbook likely digs deeper than party loyalty for many seniors. For seniors, the NDP direction to someday achieve a guaranteed livable income is a commitment worth backing.
And more broadly, for many families, the concerns about how long-term care has been handled in Canada has turned the eyes of some voters to the NDP. Today Singh in Edmonton said that “long-term care directly resulted in some of the horrific conditions we saw our loved ones and seniors were dealing with”. The NDP wants to see for-profit taken out of long-term care, something he says the Liberals have voted again.
The 44th federal general election was called on Sunday August 15, 2021. Election day is on Monday September 20, 2021. Due to the pandemic, Elections Canada believes that as many as 2.5 to 5 million people may choose to vote by mail; if that happens, final election results will not be known on the night of September 20.