Written by By Eileen Donnelly, freelance journalist, freelance writer, Ontario reporter and travel blogger.
In the early 1980s, Canada’s progressive and pioneering New Democratic Party, NDP, often referred to as the “flaws in the system” party, won a majority government in the Canadian province of Manitoba. This energized New Democrats in other provinces and founded the modern NDP.
From there, the party built up a massive following of working families who would support a “progressive,” ethical, and pragmatic position to create more affordable and accessible childcare. This led to the drafting of Canadian child care legislation in 1988 and the first election date for the federal Liberal Party in 1989.
With over 2 million children aged 14 and under on the waiting list for daycare, the first objective of the new federal government was found in the NDP platform:
“The Liberal Party, with its first-past-the-post system for the election of senators, and the previous Conservative Government’s dismissal of evidence that the child care bill in Parliament would lead to earlier election dates for children, should be defeated.”
Losing the New Democratic Party’s support cost a seat for the federal Liberal Party.
After the strong showing of the New Democrats in the 2015 federal election, it’s possible the previous government, the NDP-Liberal coalition, may have wanted to avoid a debate on child care
The new Liberal government was elected in 2016 but needs support from the NDP party to proceed with its change in the childcare system.
As the Opposition, the NDP knows that breaking away from its green party roots to focus on social programs and safety nets would alienate many of its voters.
During this time of economic uncertainty and shrinking sovereignty, a greener, left-leaning party is not appealing to its supporters. For instance, last year New Democratic Premier Kathleen Wynne held her 2015 provincial budget hostage over a single demand: a new, $2 billion “green energy” plan.
If all else fails, a recent poll by an Ottawa newspaper showed half of party members would rather debate an unrelated issue instead of a new tax policy. This type of thinking is disappointing because it maintains and maintains the status quo.
The NDP’s provincial banner has never fully been embraced and this has harmed the party in its current position of opposition. The NDP’s popularity would experience a boost if it renewed its focus and started to articulate and present an alternative plan.
In recent years, the NDP has laid out an economic model, but the support of its caucus for another major scheme in the middle of the oil and gas crisis in Alberta, called the National Energy Program, has hurt the party’s status. However, this economic model did not perform well. It spurred the loss of support in the provincial election and led to a referendum on secession, the next major issue of decision making for the NDP government.
The current federal government is struggling to find its footing. The seats won by the federal Liberals in the most recent election were roughly 400 in the Ontario and 200 in the Ottawa region. Winning both provincial and federal seats seems impossible without a strong economic story to tell. But for the NDP, the math remains tough.
For new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, cooperation with the NDP would help it grow support for programs like childcare and better position it for the challenges of the future.
Just as NDP Ontarians felt betrayed when the party left them holding the bag on the loss of some jobs, children, and expertise, so do my NDP friends feel betrayed if the federal party fails to reach out to the NDP in other provinces.
However, if it seems like it will fail to find a solution, let me say that I am not closing the door on this possibility.