Now that professional pollsters are talking about Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party like giddy partisans spinning dreamy victory scenarios, we need to face up to the possibility that something of historic proportions really may be happening here.
Commentary on federal voting intentions in the EKOS-iPolitics.ca survey published by the Edmonton Journal yesterday evening raises for the first time in the mainstream media the hopeful prospect of a person called “Prime Minister Jack Layton.”
EKOS pollster Frank Graves is quoted by iPolitics as saying his firm’s latest polls results suggest the NDP could reach 100 seats on election day, a result he characterized as “breathtaking” and “astonishing.”
The survey of more than 3,000 Canadians shows 28 per cent of decided voters support the NDP, compared with 23.7 per cent who plan to vote Liberal. “The Conservatives hold less than a six-point lead, sitting with 33.7 per cent support with just one week to go before election day,” iPolitics says.
For those of us who have supported the New Democrats through many disappointments and lean times, and who know how formidable and unprincipled this party’s opponents can be, even saying such a thing aloud feels dangerous, especially when our angry, negative, neo-con prime minister is sounding confident.
But perhaps we will have to admit that our commonsensical Canadian neighbours are running well ahead of us this time and doing exactly what we’ve always said they ought – taking a serious look at the party with the hopeful and practical policies most likely to benefit ordinary Canadians, families and individuals, young and old alike.
It’s been observed elsewhere that Canadians have long made it clear to pollsters what they want from their government – fair public health care, respect for human rights, accessible unemployment insurance, access for their children to affordable post-secondary education, respect for the environment – and that these are the very policies the NDP has advocated more consistently and with more passion than any other party.
Instead, of course, we got Brian Mulroney’s “free trade” agreements and Stephen Harper’s cynical vote suppression strategies and Parliamentary prorogations. Instead we got Liberals who promised us the moon, and delivered policies identical to those of the Conservatives.
Still, given this history, it’s easy to understand why you can’t read a commentary on this phenomenon written from an NDP perspective without hearing qualifiers like, “if the NDP surge is real.”
Well, whatever happens on election day (and there’s another such qualifier), we can take it as given now that this surge in support is real enough, and that it is based in the good sense of very large numbers of Canadians in every corner of the country. As a consequence, the best thing we can do is to ensure our family, friends and neighbours get to the polls on May 2.
If nothing else, surely we can set aside the notion that by voting for the NDP instead of the Liberals we are somehow dangerously splitting the progressive vote in Canada.
Au contraire, it appears very clear now that in most places it’s a vote for the Liberals that constitutes a dangerous experiment in strategic voting that is more likely to help Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and their friends in high places than the ordinary Canadians whom the NDP represents.
If you want to defeat Prime Minister Harper, or hold him to a minority, the professional pollsters are telling us that the smart thing to do is to vote for Jack Layton and the NDP.
This post also appears on rabble.ca.