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Archive for September 2011

Following the sad passing of their former leader Jack Layton in August, the NDP are to hold a leadership election on 24 March 2012. Quite a number of candidates have already expressed an interest, with many analysts viewing party president Brian Topp and Outremont MP Thomas Mulcair as the leading contenders.

As the party’s leading figure in Quebec Mr Mulcair may seem, at first glance, to have a natural advantage in a party which holds 59 of Quebec’s 75 seats – nearly 60% of the current NDP caucus is from Quebec.

Mr Mulcair, however, has a major problem in that the NDP (unlike, for example, the Conservatives), uses a one-member-one-vote (OMOV) system to elect it’s leader, and NDP membership is very thin on the ground in his Quebec stronghold.

Membership figures released earlier this month reveal that the NDP in Quebec had just 1,695 members, out of a Canada-wide total of around 86,000 – (I couldn’t track down separate membership figures for each province in Atlantic Canada, so I lumped them together along with the three Arctic territories):

This weakness in Quebec has a number of root causes – the NDP has always been historically weak in the province, winning not a single seat before Mr Mulcair’s breakthrough in the 2007 Outremont by-election.

Quebec is also the one province which lacks an NDP provincial wing and so the federal NDP in Quebec fails to benefit from the kind of increase in membership gained in other provinces through provincial politics. For example, membership in BC more than doubled as a result of the provincial leadership election held this year.

The membership gap in Quebec is all the starker when we compare the percentage of NDP members from each province with the provincial populations:


And starker still when compared with the percentage of NDP MPs from each province:

Just 2% of NDP members are from Quebec – but over 57% of their House of Commons caucus is from the province.

Whoever eventually comes out on top in the leadership election will have enormous shoes to fill. Jack Layton took the party from the political margins to become Canada’s Official Opposition. The medium-term goal is clear – displace Harper and create Canada’s first NDP government.

To accomplish this, the party will surely need to improve it’s grassroots strength in Quebec and dispel speculation that their 2011 result in the province was a flash in the pan. Regardless of who wins the leadership, party strategists will doubtless be hoping the leadership election itself results in significant growth in Quebec membership – and an improved ability to deploy an effective ‘ground-game’ grassroots-based campaign in Quebec at the next election.

UPDATE: Here’s an analysis by Eric Grenier, author of the excellent Three Hundred Eight blog, about an Angus-Reid poll which looked at potential NDP support (broken down by province) under either Topp or Mulcair. I take Topp’s ratings in this poll with a pinch of salt as, unlike Mulcair, he’s still a largely unknown quantity to most of the Canadian electorate. The real test for Topp will come as he makes himself known to Canadians over the months ahead.

It’s been a month since our last look at GOP candidate Facebook followings. A month ago, the headliner was Rick Perry, who saw a 78.6% increase in his Facebook base in the space of a month.

How have things changed? Here’s how each candidate’s Facebook following looks today:

Here’s the increase since mid-August (compared with the increase from mid-July to mid-August):

And the percentage increase:

Huntsman sees the largest percentage increase, albeit off a very low base. His following on Facebook is still just 17,735.

Bachmann’s social networking operation will be disappointed by the recent steep decline in her rate of growth. She grew her following 9.1% from mid-July to mid-August – but by just 0.2% in the last month (less than 1000 people). This fall-off in momentum mirrors media speculation that Perry’s entry to the race has dented Bachmann’s Tea Party support base.

Mitt Romney remains the only candidate with over a million followers. Mr Romney maintains his slow but steady growth – 2.3% last month, 4.1% the month before.

Rick Perry has a following of just under 160,000 – which grew 26.9% in the last month. Perry’s rate of growth may be declining but it’s still an impressive increase from the 70,485 followers he had just nine weeks ago.

Does a strong Facebook following equate to strong small-donor fundraising ability as many assume? For instance, will the fall-off in Bachmann’s Facebook momentum mean a fall-off in her hitherto impressive ability to raise funds from small donors?

It’ll be interesting to see how these online trends compare with the amounts raised by each candidate in sub-$200 donations when the FEC quarterly fundraising figures are released in a couple of weeks.

British Columbia’s Harmonized Sales Tax is no more, following defeat in a post-in referendum held over the summer. Full riding-by-riding results are here – note that ‘Yes’ votes were in favour of abolishing the HST.

BC’s two main parties, the governing Liberals and the opposition NDP, took opposite sides in the referendum debate. The HST was initially introduced by former Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell in circumstances (immediately after an election where it did not form part of their platform) widely perceived as controversial.

The NDP campaigned strongly in favour of a Yes vote for abolition, and were joined on the ‘Yes’ side by low-tax groups and personalities on the right of the spectrum, notably including former SoCred premier Bill Vander Zalm.

When you compare the riding-by-riding results of the referendum with the 2009 election, there’s a clear correlation between support for the NDP and support for the ‘Yes’ vote:

New NDP leader Adrian Dix will no doubt take heart from this result – but the most immediate outcome of the referendum is that recently-installed Liberal Premier Christy Clark has ruled out a provincial election this fall. It had been speculated she would go to the polls to seek a mandate of her own – instead she will now continue in office until the fixed election date of May 2013.



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