Saturday, September 17, 2011

On strategic considerations

While most media discussion of the NDP's leadership race so far has focused disproportionately on the effect of a couple of early endorsements, the obvious reality is that any candidate will need to win over tens of thousands of potential supporters in order to win the leadership. But let's offer an open question for those watching the race.

If you were planning a leadership campaign, how many members' votes would you expect to need in order to win?

For reference, Jack Layton won 31,150 out of 58,202 votes in 2003, the first NDP race to be run based on a membership vote rather than a delegated convention. That convention followed an election where the NDP won under 1,100,000 votes across Canada.

In 2011, the NDP won over 4,500,000 votes across Canada. The current membership numbers have been estimated in the range of 86,000, including 30,000 in British Columbia, 22,000 in Ontario, and 10,000 in each of the Prairie provinces making up the vast majority of the total.

In answering, a couple of questions to think about: how should we expect membership to rise compared to the NDP's vote count - particularly in Quebec, but also across the country? How much of the current membership list based on B.C.'s provincial leadership race will sit out the federal campaign? And how many new members signed up during the course of a leadership race will both vote, and exercise multiple options (which may be highly important in a multi-ballot race)?

I'll take a closer look myself in a future post. But for now, I'm curious to see what readers think.


  1. I'm not going to pretend to have an answer, but it would be worth putting the NDP membership numbers in perspective with the Liberals and the Bloc (at least for the NDP Quebec numbers), since both are also in the midst of leadership races. The Conservative numbers would also give a range for how high we should aim if we want to form government. The other key to the membership number question is that with the phase out of public party financing, the NDP will need even more members and supporters to effectively campaign against the Conservative war chest.

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