Are the NDP on the wane?

In a week when the NDP was already mourning the defeat of an icon at the hands of Toronto voters, the sole New Democrat provincial government in the country was flirting with implosion. With his ruling party sinking in the polls, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has a cabinet rebellion on his hands. Until further notice, there is a death-watch on his leadership.

In a week when the NDP was already mourning the defeat of an icon at the hands of Toronto voters, the sole New Democrat provincial government in the country was flirting with implosion.

With his ruling party sinking in the polls, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has a cabinet rebellion on his hands. Until further notice, there is a death-watch on his leadership.

The failure of Olivia Chow’s mayoralty bid and the free-falling popularity of the Manitoba New Democrats are only the latest items on a long list of NDP woes.

Just last week, former New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis finished a poor second in Winnipeg’s mayoral election. She lost by more than 50,000 votes despite going in the campaign with a sizable lead.

But the party’s troubles are not limited to the municipal scene. Going from west to east, the NDP landscape outside Quebec is a picture of desolation.

In British Columbia, the party failed to end a decade in opposition last year, finishing second in an election that had been its to lose.

In the wake of that fourth consecutive provincial defeat, former B.C. premier Michael Harcourt quit the party, castigating it for not being ready to govern.

In Alberta, the federal NDP has come fourth behind the Conservatives, the Liberals … and the Green Party in two of the last three byelections held in that province.

In the former NDP heartland of Saskatchewan, a skeleton New Democrat crew made up of only nine opposition members faces the most popular premier in the country.

After seven years, Brad Wall is still at the top of the provincial chart.

In Ontario, the NDP lost its leverage at Queen’s Park when the Liberals were re-elected to a majority last spring.

With revolt brewing in some quarters of her party, leader Andrea Horwath faces a mandatory leadership review next month.

The loss last July of Chow’s federal seat compounded the party’s Toronto rout in the provincial election.

There was little in the results of Monday’s municipal vote to suggest an imminent improvement in NDP fortunes in Canada’s metropolis.

In Atlantic Canada, the picture is even more dispiriting.

Nova Scotia voters ousted the NDP from power last fall after just one mandate. The party fell back to third place and incumbent premier Darrell Dexter lost his seat.

The New Brunswick NDP remained shut out of the legislature in last month’s provincial vote and leader Dominic Cardy resigned after failing to win his riding.

That same election saw the Green Party make history when its leader, David Coon, was elected.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael survived a leadership challenge last spring but lost two of her five members to her Liberal opposition rivals in the process.

In almost every instance, the Liberals have been the beneficiaries of the NDP’s failure to thrive.

The provincial numbers tell the story. Today there are 119 New Democrats sitting in the country’s provincial legislatures against 279 Liberals.

Even when Quebec, where the NDP does not run provincially, is taken out of the mix, the provincial Liberals outnumber their New Democrats counterparts by a margin of almost two to one.

And while the mayoralty bids of former front-line federal NDP MPs foundered in Winnipeg and Toronto this month, some of their Liberal ex-colleagues fared better, notably in Vaughan and Mississauga.

A steady string of setbacks was not what Canada’s New Democrats expected in the wake of Jack Layton’s historic Quebec breakthrough in the 2011 federal election.

They figured the party’s elevation to the high profile role of official Opposition in the House of Commons and the advent of a caucus that was national in more than name for the first time ever truly would result in some sort of a halo effect on the party and its brand across the country.

Early fears that Quebec would turn into a poison pill for party unity or that the province would prove fickle in its affections have since turned out to be unfounded. But so has the notion that the 2011 orange wave was the precursor of a pro-NDP shift in Canada’s tectonic plates.

Chantal Hébert is a syndicated Toronto Star national affairs writer.

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