NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Deputy Leader Alexandre Boulerice, announce a campaign to reach out to young people and young families to understand their concerns at a news conference Monday, March 29, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Deputy Leader Alexandre Boulerice, announce a campaign to reach out to young people and young families to understand their concerns at a news conference Monday, March 29, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Quebec is key to election success, but for NDP the locks are rusty

NDP polling below 20 per cent

OTTAWA — For NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, the path to a stronger presence in Parliament runs through Quebec — but the trail is littered with obstacles.

New Democrats, whose members gather virtually for a policy convention this weekend, are targeting younger voters with renewed pitches on student debt relief, more affordable housing and a cap on cellphone and internet bills.

All were highlighted during a visit to la belle province last week.

But the party is polling below 20 per cent with little concentration of support outside of a few neighbourhoods in Montreal, says Karl Bélanger, president of consulting firm Traxxion Strategies and former senior adviser to the NDP.

“The prospects at this point are limited. But the potential of growth is there,” he said, citing polls that show a majority of Quebec voters would consider the NDP as their second choice. The challenge is to convert this group to the orange team.

A flare-up of identity politics touching on issues from language rights to systemic racism — and fanned by the Bloc Québécois — threatens to cast the NDP on the far side of sensitive cultural divides.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to hog much of the spotlight during a federal vaccine rollout that has begun to flow more quickly, despite a shaky start.

Singh repeatedly states that the NDP fought successfully over the past year to beef up emergency response benefits, wage subsidies and sick-leave payments, and that Canadians recognize that achievement.

“I’m not so worried about recognition in terms of, like, I need people to be able to rattle off the NDP did this, this, this and that,” he said in an interview.

“I just want people to know I fought for them.”

But failing to get credit for programs unfurled with NDP input in a minority Liberal government has been the bane of New Democrats for decades at the federal and provincial levels.

Minority regimes under Pierre Trudeau in Ottawa and David Peterson and Kathleen Wynne at Queen’s Park have all roared back to majority status come election day after co-operating with NDP lawmakers in various ways that proved electorally fruitless for New Democrats.

“He’s got a problem there,” Brooke Jeffrey, a political-science professor at Concordia University in Montreal, said of Singh.

“(Liberals) have pulled the classic manoeuvre of accepting some of the NDP suggestions and making them theirs. And therefore if the public approves of them, it’s them who get the credit. This has been going on since Pearson’s time.”

The Liberals’ tilt to the left on issues ranging from pharmacare to government spending leaves the NDP forced to propose even more leftward policies if it wants to stand out, potentially isolating some voters, she added.

The NDP hit a high-water mark of 59 seats in Quebec in the 2011 federal election under then-leader Jack Layton, only to ebb to 16 seats in 2015 and just one in 2019, shrinking its organizational strength.

Alexandre Boulerice, the province’s sole remaining New Democrat MP, says Quebecers and Canadians will view the NDP as the party of fresh ideas amid what he calls Liberal inaction on pharmacare, climate change and other fronts, with the COVID-19 pandemic leaving New Democrats well poised to seize on an era of big government.

“We will let (the) Bloc Québécois and the Conservative party fight for right-wing conservative nationalism, and we will go with solidarity and friendship with First Nations and racialized people,” Boulerice said.

“Maybe Justin was able to do it seven years ago, but he’s not the cool guy anymore. And he disappointed a lot of people. So we’ll go after Liberal voters, especially young Liberal voters, and I think that technique is doing very well and will do better during a campaign, because he’s a performer.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.

federal electionQuebec

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Image from Facebook)
Some rural central Alberta students return to online learning

Grades 6 to 12 at Coronation School impacted

Instructor Brandt Trimble leads an outdoor spin class at RYDE RD. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Fitness facilities continue to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

‘It’s really frustrating to be one of the targeted businesses’

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins (Photo contributed)
Federal budget strangles job growth, says MP Blaine Calkins

‘It is most certainly not a balanced budget’

Kids at Lotsa’Tots West Day Care in Red Deer act out how a caterpillar moves with co-owner and instructor Shireen Sewcharran-Wiebe. Child care providers are hoping Alberta’s provincial government will help fund the national child care program announced this week. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alberta day care providers hope Alberta will get onboard with national child care program

Some question whether the UCP’s ideology will stand in the way

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, minister of Environment and Parks after being sworn into office, in Edmonton on Tuesday April 30, 2019. Town council from the largest municipality in Nixon's constituency is concerned over the province's consultation plans for open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Town of Rocky Mountain House wants better coal consultation

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta. — Town council from the largest municipality in… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Site of COVID outbreak last year: Vaccination clinic at Alberta meat plant postponed

HIGH RIVER, Alta. — A COVID-19 vaccination clinic for thousands of workers… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘We hope to help a little more’: Biden says he spoke to Trudeau about more vaccines

WASHINGTON — Canada can look forward to an unexpected shot in the… Continue reading

The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. A new federal study found that people released from prison were much more likely than the general population to have trouble finding gainful employment, even over a decade after returning to society. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Ease employment hurdles for former prison inmates, federal study urges

OTTAWA — A new federal study found that people released from prison… Continue reading

Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem holds a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada is keeping its key interest rate… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. Tam says new information on COVID-19 and variants prompted the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to suddenly cancel its planned update on who should get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
AstraZeneca advice from national panel delayed by new data on COVID-19 and variants

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says new information on COVID-19… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pressured to adopt tougher emissions target for Biden climate summit

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure to step up… Continue reading

Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
ICU pressures mount as COVID fells younger people; Ottawa mulls India travel ban

TORONTO — Amid mounting pressures on critical care in hospitals and concerns… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Three confidence votes to determine fate of minority Liberal government

OTTAWA — A pair of proposed changes to the federal budget put… Continue reading

Most Read