With six weeks left until Canadian elections and the NDP leading in polls, it seems as though the country may have already chosen its next leader. However, there is still enough time for federal party leaders to draw in a few more supporters, which is exactly what they’re all attempting to do.
While there are various political parties in Canada, there are three main competitors in the race: Stephen Harper with the Conservative Party of Canada (and current Prime Minister), Tom Mulcair with the New Democratic Party, and Justin Trudeau with the Liberal Party. First is an explanation of the parties. (This will be helpful later, when we examine the strategic plans for each runner.)
Canadian Political Parties
The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC or Conservatives) is much as it sounds. The party favors traditional ideas about the environment and the economy. Some have compared the Conservative party to the Republican party of the U.S. The party has also been one of the largest supported parties in Canadian politics. Harper’s administration is currently facing criticism for alleged corruption in his party regarding Mike Duffy.
The Liberal Party (Liberals) was the leading party for much of Canadian history since the 18th century until the late 90s and early 2000s. Much of its decline is due to a scandal involving corruption in a government funded program in Quebec. The party is more politically moderate than the Conservative Party and can be compared to the Democratic party of the U.S. The party has also recently been criticized as not being woman-friendly.
The third party, the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) is a more progressive group. The party is self-described as a group of “social modernists.”
The Strategies of Mulcair, Harper, and Trudeau
The two parties that are taking the lead are the NDP and the CPC. Regardless of the percentage of support a party has, they must win the most seats in parliament for their party — and their leader — to control parliament. For a party to become a majority and secure the seat of their leader as prime minister, a party must win 170 seats.
Since the beginning of the campaigns, the NDP and Liberal parties were thought of as having rather a long shot at winning enough support to win parliament. However, the Duffy scandal has left its mark on the Conservative Party. Harper’s support fell significantly and lent the NDP a hand in its gaining support. The NDP now has 31.2% support and is in first place in the polls. The CPC is in second place with 29.4% and the Liberals are in third with 27.7% in polls.
Each party is struggling to get the majority, but it seems as though the NDP might pull through. The party’s approvals spiked early in the campaigns and, although they have lost some numbers, have remained number one for the past few weeks. The Liberal party has remained number three for the duration of the campaign and the Conservatives have been making languid shots at regaining their support. They were even way behind in polls in the Atlantic provinces.
Because it seems as though all three parties are in sinking boats, whether they need more numbers or are losing the numbers they had gained, they are changing tactics to those which should be familiar to any election. They are differentiating themselves from the other candidates and going after the votes of those who are not necessarily their standard backers.
In U.S. politics, it isn’t unusual to see candidates contrasting themselves from the right wing or the left wing and driving themselves further to the left or right. However, this is a bit more complex in Canada, where there are currently three parties vying for the majority.
The votes of Conservatives who have become disillusioned with Harper are essentially up-for-grabs by the other parties. In this case, Mulcair is attempting to win over Conservatives, which is interesting because of the clear disparity between NDP and Conservative ideologies. Mulcair may even win over those Conservatives because he is keeping his cool instead of generating lively claims, as might be expected of a more progressive political candidate. He has even paired with Andrew Thomson, who is running for parliament provincially and is a former finance minister, to possibly convey the message that he would make a fiscally responsible prime minister.
On the other hand, Trudeau is grabbing at the segment of Mulcair’s base that is disenchanted with his Conservative leanings. The leader of the Liberal party has started to appeal to the more progressive crowd by going more to the left. Of course, this does leave the party vulnerable to losing out to both the CPC and NDP. It also seems that Trudeau is pairing with Kathleen Wynne, a candidate that has been losing popularity, in order to improve the perception that the party is not woman-friendly.
Meanwhile, Harper is left using the tactic that he’s the lesser “evil” of the three. Harper believes that the Canadian people will go for a party that they know and appears confident in that notion.
So, instead of having two extremes, Canada has created a third extreme of sorts. Harper is keeping to the right, Trudeau to the left, and surprisingly, the NDP is keeping the middleground.
Again, there is still some time left for the candidates and their parties to burgeon a few more seats, but it seems as though the NDP has seen the most success in its tactics. Perhaps Canada will once again vote for the biggest beard.