Chan­tal Hébert


The num­bers are in and they don’t bode well for the NDP in Que­bec re­gard­less of the out­come of the party’s up­com­ing lead­er­ship vote.

The en­thu­si­asm that at­tended the 2011 or­ange wave has given way to wide­spread voter indi er­ence as well as in­ter­nal dis­com­fort within the prov­ince’s de­pleted NDP ranks.

None of the four can­di­dates has emerged as a panacea for the party’s post-elec­tion blues. Many of the prov­ince’s New Democrats see little light at the end of the lead­er­ship tun­nel.

A Leger Mar­ket­ing poll pub­lished this week­end by Le Devoir, the Gazette and the Globe and Mail found 80 per cent of re­spon­dents un­able or un­will­ing to state a pref­er­ence for any of the con­tenders for Thomas Mul­cair’s suc­ces­sion.

Al­most three quar­ters pro­fessed to have no in­ter­est in the NDP cam­paign.

Un­der Mul­cair in 2015 the party earned 25 per cent of the vote in Que­bec and won 16 seats.

In the Leger poll, none of his would-be suc­ces­sors came close to that score.

At 16 per cent, MP Guy Caron — the only Que­bec can­di­date in the lineup — fared marginally bet­ter than his three out-of-prov­ince ri­vals, Char­lie An­gus, Niki Ash­ton and Jag­meet Singh, but still well be­low the thresh­old be­yond which votes start trans­lat­ing into ac­tual seats.

Voter disa ec­tion with the NDP is re lected in its mem­ber­ship roles. Of the 12,4000 mem­bers el­i­gi­ble to vote for the next leader, fewer than 5,000, mak­ing up a measly 4 per cent of the to­tal, are from Que­bec. When the party se­lected Mul­cair to suc­ceed Jack Lay­ton, it had al­most three times as many Que­bec mem­bers.

The 2012 lead­er­ship dy­nam­ics were strik­ingly di er­ent. Mul­cair was — by far — the lead­ing can­di­date among Que­bec New Democrats. Polls showed he was best placed to pre­serve Lay­ton’s Que­bec legacy. With fed­eral power sud­denly in their sights, con­sol­i­dat­ing that legacy was job one in the minds of most New Democrats, re­gard­less of the re­gion they hailed from.

In this cam­paign, there is no can­di­date guar­an­teed to be com­pet­i­tive in Que­bec in 2019 and no pro­hib­i­tive favourite among the prov­ince’s ranks. But there is vo­cal con­cern about the NDP’s prospects un­der one of the con­tenders.

It is in­creas­ingly com­mon in the dy­ing days of this cam­paign to hear some Que­bec New Democrats warn that un­der a tur­ban-wear­ing Sikh leader, the party will hit a wall in the prov­ince.

On Sun­day in Mon­treal, Singh asked the au­di­ence at­tend­ing the cam­paign’s only French-lan­guage de­bate to look be­yond his tur­ban and beard. But the fact is, his iden­tity is a ma­jor, and in some in­stances the main, at­trac­tion for many of his sup­port­ers.

It is not pri­mar­ily the ideas and the poli­cies he has put for­ward in this cam­paign that have some party mem­bers dream­ing of a big NDP break­through in the more mul­ti­cul­tural quar­ters of Canada.

By all in­di­ca­tions Singh is headed for a strong irst-bal­lot show­ing on Oct. 1. The num­ber of New Democrats el­i­gi­ble to vote is about the same as in 2012, but 16,000 more of them are from On­tario. The prov­ince that is MPP Singh’s base is home to 42 per cent of el­i­gi­ble NDP lead­er­ship vot­ers. Bri­tish-Columbia ac­counts for another 26 per cent.

Singh’s cam­paign claims it has signed up 47,000 new mem­bers in­clud­ing 30,000 in On­tario.

It would be sim­plis­tic to por­tray the lead­er­ship dilemma the New Democrats face this fall as a choice be­tween keep­ing Que­bec in the fold or break­ing into the mul­ti­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties of Canada’s big cities.

Re­cent his­tory shows it is al­ways risky to pre­judge a lead­er­ship can­di­date’s po­ten­tial, in Que­bec or else­where.

It was not so long ago that pun­dits were pre­dict­ing the Lib­er­als un­der a leader whose last name is Trudeau would never make a come­back in fran­co­phone Que­bec. More than a few Que­bec Lib­er­als used to be­lieve that. In 2015, the cur­rent prime min­is­ter beat Stephen Harper, Mul­cair and Gilles Du­ceppe to bring his party to irst place and 40 seats in his home prov­ince.

If the past decade has demon­strated any­thing, it is that no vot­ing pat­tern is cast in stone, es­pe­cially in Que­bec.

But by the same to­ken it is re­duc­tive to as­sume that an NDP leader is­sued from a vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity would nec­es­sar­ily do bet­ter in the eth­ni­cally di­verse quar­ters of ur­ban Canada than his pre­de­ces­sors.

is a na­tional a airs writer. Her col­umn ap­pears in Metro ev­ery Thurs­day

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