Monday, September 14, 2009

On targets

With a federal election likely around the corner, one of the main questions for the NDP is how effectively it can build on the inroads it's made in historically barren terrain. And Norman Spector notes that the party's Quebec strategy may not be what one might have expected based on its 2008 results:
(B)efore you forget about an imminent election so as to get on with your life, you should note that La Presse is reporting that “An election is inevitable. … An NDP source indicated last night that there have been no discussions with emissaries of the Harper government to find common ground. 'This leads us to believe that they, too, want an election.'" And, behind its fire-wall, Le Devoir is carrying a report this morning that suggests that NDP planning in Québec is proceeding full speed ahead:

“Strategists have set four ridings as their priorities, and those ridings will have greater resources during the campaign: Gatineau, Outremont, Sherbrooke and Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup. … New Democrats will be reinforcing the Bloc message, which is attempting to demonstrate that Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper are one in the same for Québec. The NDP will hammer home the fact that the Liberals have voted 79 times to save the Conservatives from being defeated in the Commons."
Of course it isn't the NDP's message that figures to come as news, as the opportunity to have the party's traditional "same old story" line of attack reinforced by the strongest party on the Quebec political scene makes for an opening far too valuable to miss. But it's worth noting where that message is apparently going to be focused.

Outremont and Gatineau are obviously the NDP's two strongest ridings in Quebec. But while there are some points in favour of each of the other two priority ridings as being potentially favourable territory, neither would jump out as potential targets based on their recent results.

In Sherbrooke, the NDP ran a respectable fourth with 13.1% of the vote in 2008. But one could say the same for dozens of Quebec ridings which aren't apparently being promoted to the top of the NDP's list of targets as a result. Which means that the riding will likely serve as a test case for the NDP's ability to find demographic factors aside from voting results alone which can bring a riding into play.

Meanwhile, Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup was actually one of the NDP's weaker Quebec ridings, with the party taking only 5.7% of the vote compared to 12.2% province-wide. Mind you, there is one obvious reason why the riding would be its target: its former MP (the Bloc's Paul Crete) resigned giving rise to a by-election campaign, and the combination of no incumbent and the resources put in during the by-election campaign might well create an ideal set of conditions for a breakthrough.

Still, the NDP's current position includes a seemingly more promising base in ridings where it has already moved up in the party standings and substantially closed the vote gap such as Hull-Aylmer, Drummond and Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, as well as ridings where it took second place like Westmount-Ville-Marie, Rivière-du-Nord and Repentigny. And we'll likely find out before long whether the ridings which surprisingly made the party's shortlist ahead of those better-developed options will actually offer more fertile territory.

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