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LEFT TURN IN CANADA?
The NDP Breakthrough and the Future of Canadian Politics
Murray Cooke and Dennis Pilon - October 2012

Photo credits: Matt Jiggins, flickr

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In the last Canadian federal election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) won more than 30 per cent of the popular vote. For the first time in the party’s fifty-year existence, it now forms the Official Opposition in the national Parliament in Ottawa. Because of this remarkable showing, the question of whether this election represents a historic national breakthrough for the Canadian left has been put on the agenda.

Conventionally, the NDP is considered a social democratic party in the Anglo-American mold, rather than the European socialist tradition. The party emerged much later than comparable labour parties in Europe, the UK and Australia. And unlike other comparable socialist and labour parties, it did not displace the traditional reformist Liberal Party. Arguably the key barrier to the Canadian left has been the continued viability of the Canadian Liberal Party, long after comparable liberal parties have waned in Europe and Australia. Therefore, the sudden increase in seats and shift into second place in the national party system, largely due to a breakthrough in the French-speaking province of Québec, was both unprecedented and unexpected.

The NDP’s success particularly surprised those pundits who had argued that Canadians have simply not been interested in its mild social democratic policy mix, or that American influences have tempered Canadian political collectivism. However, these “explanations” have failed to take into account that the party has gained office in five of the country’s ten provinces, demonstrating its broad popularity, while a great many of its national policies have been introduced by other parties.

So what were the factors contributing to the NDP’s success? And what kind of politics does the NDP stand for? Is it a party of the left or rather a mildly center-left force favouring the implementation of neo-liberal austerity policies, just as the other Canadian parties do?

Murray Cooke and Dennis Pilon from the Department of Political Science at York University, Toronto, both of whom have published extensively on issues relating to Canadian party politics, analyse the NDP’s outlook. They explore what kind of party the NDP is and has been, its historic position in the national party system, and the role of regional, linguistic and class factors in shaping its federal presence. Cooke and Pilon also discuss the more recent changes taking place since Jack Layton became the NDP’s leader in 2004, and the impact of his untimely death only months after his greatest political victory.

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT  (English)


Other publications in "Political Analysis and Alternatives"

DONALD TRUMP’S DANGEROUSLY COHERENT AGENDA
John Nichols
October 2017

NO FAR RIGHT: REPORTING BACK
RLS–NYC
August 2017

“CARRYING ON” IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
Institute for Critical Social Analysis
July 2017

NEWS / EVENTS

AMERICA’S SEMINAL RED SCARE: THE US AND THE PERCEPTION OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

RSVP for this event here. The Russian Revolution is usually considered a watershed between the “long” 19th and the “short” 20th century. What Eric Hobsbawm referred to as the “Age of Extremes” was consequently initiated by the events in Russia that obviously had a tremendous impact...
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Socialism in Social Networks

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Socialism in Social Networks

NEWS / EVENTS

AMERICA’S SEMINAL RED SCARE: THE US AND THE PERCEPTION OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

RSVP for this event here. The Russian Revolution is usually considered a watershed between the “long” 19th and the “short” 20th century. What Eric Hobsbawm referred to as the “Age of Extremes” was consequently initiated by the events in Russia that obviously had a tremendous impact on the United States as well; especially when it comes to the U.S. perception of revolutions and communism as two determining and “dangerous” factors......
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Socialism in Social Networks

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Socialism in Social Networks

GLOBAL POWER AND RESISTANCE THE FUTURE OF LABOR SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND EMANCIPATION POLITICAL ANALYSIS AND ALTERNATIVES