Sunday, September 12, 2021

On narrow targets

At this stage of the federal election campaign, the seemingly wide range of outcomes is entirely an artifice of a first-part-the-post system with multiple parties contending for seats. Barring a drastic change in the last week of the campaign (which will likely need to overcome votes already locked in as well as significant inertia), we figure to see the Libs and Cons relatively close to each other in the popular vote, with the NDP a relatively strong third in what would be a minority Parliament in all but the most extreme possible outcomes.

The most significant point of uncertainty looks to be the Bloc - which seemed to have fallen from its earlier support levels earlier in the campaign, only to have ticked upward more recently. And as the campaign has played out it's worth wondering whether the NDP may have limited its ability to capitalize on opportunities - in Quebec in particular, and to some extent across the country.

On the Quebec front, the NDP has been explicit about limiting its focus to 6-10 ridings. And while it might be understandable not to launch a high-resource offensive into all of the terrain included in the 2011 Orange Wave, it has to be a disappointment to treat even seats which the party held in 2015 as secondary considerations.

After all, the result is that voters who have supported the party under multiple past leaders will perceive the lack of attention even after party finances have stabilized. And even in the ridings which are specifically targeted, the sense of limited aspirations from a strategic standpoint is particularly dangerous for a campaign based on asking voters to dare to imagine more than the status quo. 

Moreover, there's reason for concern about the same phenomenon playing out across the country and setting a ceiling on party support which caps the plausible seat count in double digits (again lower than levels the NDP has already reached), and limits the prospects of pushing aside either of the Libs or the Cons.

There is reason for optimism that the NDP is back on its 2000s trajectory of building from one election cycle to the next, including by being able to close its campaign strongly in close seats. But if the NDP wants to be able to put its ambitious platform into effect, it needs to be no less daring in the seats it contests - and it will be a severe disappointment if an opportunity to make far larger gains is lost to an overly cautious campaign plan. 

[Edit: fixed typo, wording.]

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