Ontario NDP Campaign Strategy: Martin Redux

Posted on September 8, 2007. Filed under: Personal Blog |

I’m going to vote in the Ontario election in exactly two weeks. I’ve never voted in a provincial election before. My vote’s up for grabs. So, today I checked out the party stances via their web sites. I was disappointed with what I saw from the Ontario NDP.

I’d like to cheekily submit that the Ontario NDP campaign strategy seems to be an effort to emulate Paul Martin’s 2006 electoral strategy, including some of his signature campaign tactics:

  • Being the last to release your campaign policy document because the campaign doesn’t really being until the last two weeks of the campaign, anyways.
  • Giving a series of ‘mad-as-hell I’m-going-on-the-attack’ speeches
  • Making key policy announcements that will have no effect (remember Martin’s handgun ‘ban’?)
  • And on key issues in the campaign (accountability, for Martin) stand back and let your opponents do the debating

Now let’s look at some of the similarities to the Ontario NDP campaign:

No Policy Until the Very Last Minute
The campaigning starts Monday. The Ontario Liberals have released a 42-page policy document alongside a comprehensive costing document establishing what they will do when elected and how much it will cost.

The Ontario PC Party has a 61-page policy document, replete with citations and charts about everything from Ontario GDP growth to electronic medical records implementation rates.

The Green Party of Ontario has an entire policy platform section of their web site with well-designed policy documents on the likes of education (9 pages) and environmental policy (14 pages).

The Ontario NDP has chosen not to release a platform document. And not to release a costing structure. I emailed the NDP about this and they merely pointed me to their press releases and noted that even though they have yet to announce all of their major commitments, I could expect “more to be unveiled in the coming week.”

Instead of focusing on policy, the NDP is focusing on just how angry they are at Dalton McGuinty. It’s dominated the NDP campaign.

Similarly, the NDP tv ads are all attack ads with no talk about NDP policy proposals:
Contradictory and Ineffectual Policy Announcements
Now, the NDP does have a number of policy proposals. One of their top-three issues, listed on the front of their web page, is a promise to address global warming. The Ontario NDP commits to dramatic greenhouse gas reductions so that Ontario will meet Kyoto targets within four years. What is remarkable is how this squares with two other major planks of Ontario NDP policy:

I’ll leave you consider how that all adds up.

Nowhere on the issues
In what is undoubtedly one of the key issues of this election, religious school funding, the NDP is being left out of the debate. They do not mention the issue on their web site. News pieces, such as this one from the CBC, present the issue as one of the Tory ‘fund everything’ proposal vs. the Liberal ‘status quo’ proposal vs. the Green ‘only public’ proposal, without so much as mentioning the NDP. The fact is that on a major issue of the 2007 campaign, the NDP has not effectively staked out a position in the public debate.

All told
Now, despite adopting this campaigning strategy, the NDP is going to increase their seat count. They’re going to call this election a success. But when your party hits rock bottom, it’s easy to go up. This is the fourth time that Howard Hampton has lead the NDP into a provincial election. During each successive election, the NDP has lost seats. During the last election they even lost official party status in the legislature.

Number of NDP Seats in Ontario Legislature for Provincial Elections in Which Howard Hampton Has Been NDP Leader (Past Three Provincial Elections)

I want to submit that the NDP will not return to government with an attack-focused campaign (even if they avoid references to ailurophilic gastronomes :). To reference the Martin campaign one more time:

The NDP does not have a policy document.
A policy document. The NDP.
I did not make this up.

Choose your Ontario.


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