NDP juggling demands of federalists, separatists
Speaking in Ottawa recently, NDP National Director Brad Lavigne has made the party's goal clear: they want to render their 2011 gains in Quebec permanent.
It may be even more than that. Lavigne seems to think those gains may already be permanent, having been hard-earned.
“It wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t a fluke, it was eight years in the making,” he insisted.
Some things Lavigne said weren't especially surprising. He indicated that the NDP's strategy was to essentially build a Jack Layton personality cult, and they did precisely that.
“We made sure the brand of the party was Jack Layton,” he said. But this is not news to Canadians, after years of listening to NDP operatives refer to the party as "Jack Layton and the NDP".
Moving forward, the NDP's plan is to keep the Liberal Party and Bloc Quebecois down.
“Now that their traditional voting base has left them and many of them have come to us, we have to make sure that we kind of entrench their new home with us,” Lavigne declared. “we have to occupy the space that they traditionally occupy.”
“The four-and-a-half million voters, it’s the new voter coalition,” he added. “It’s the new voting base, we need to cement that in for the long term and make sure there’s not reason for them to go back to their previous home.”
This confronts the NDP with a serious challenge to juggle. They have to juggle the demands of federalist Liberal voters and separatist Bloc Quebecois voters on virtually every policy point: lingual policy, referendum law, even separatism itself.
This has already led to the NDP's position as a federalist party being shaken by a disturbing lack of commitment to federalism.
This is a strategy that is bound to fail. Pander too much to separatists, and the federalist vote will flee from the party -- as it should. Pay the proper attention to federalist demands, and separatists will flee back to the Bloc Quebecois.
The only way to have a chance at keeping all these balls in the air may be to simply declare that the NDP shall have no policy on separatism; that the party shall be neither separatist nor federalist.
Not that this is likely to work either. Those committed to winning sovereignty for Quebec, as those committed to keeping Canada together, are not prepared to accept anything less than a commitment.
The NDP so often brags that they aren't the party of the "squishy middle". They're a flat-out party of polarization, and they're proud of it.
Simply put, Brad Lavigne and the NDP have a choice to make: they can commit themselves to federalism and risk their separatist votes, or they can commit themselves to separatism and risk their federalist votes.
To do anything less is to not be the NDP. To do anything less is to risk having supplanted the Liberals only to ultimately become them.
If the NDP wants to permanently remain Canada's second party, they have a choice to make. Will they make the right choice for Canada? That has yet to be seen.