NDP's 'cautious change' did not resound with voters in election: report

The party's painful most-mortem comes after it was reduced to third-party status in Ottawa

OTTAWA – The NDP’s last federal election campaign lacked a strong and simple narrative to grab the attention of voters thirsty for change, say interim findings unearthed during a painful most-mortem.

As the Liberals campaigned on “real change,” the NDP presented “cautious change” that was out of sync with people’s desire for a dramatic break from the Conservatives, according to a note distributed Tuesday by party president Rebecca Blaikie.

“Our balanced budget pledge was, in part, responsible for presenting us as cautious change,” Blaikie’s note said.

“It allowed the Liberals to contrast themselves from the Conservatives more clearly and overshadowed our strongly progressive economic platform which included higher taxes on corporations, crackdown on tax havens and a federal minimum wage.”

The New Democrats — once poised to replace the Conservative government and now reduced to third-party status in the House of Commons — are going through an uncomfortable examination of what went wrong during the longest campaign in modern history.

The review needs to take an unbiased look at what happened, Blaikie said.

“In accepting this task, I pledged to the party membership that this effort would be honest, avoid the temptation to gloss over shortcomings and ultimately offer us a blueprint forward where we would learn from our mistakes and do better next time,” she said.

Blaikie and eight other members of a working group, including former Ottawa MP Paul Dewar, have also heard the NDP’s platform received positive reviews but its launch failed to highlight how these ideas could help people.

The platform release also came late in the campaign, Blaikie’s memo added.

Other factors, including strategic voting campaigns, media coverage and the length of the campaign were flagged by many supporters in post-election discussions.

Blaikie and the committee are expected to release their final report in March, ahead of the NDP’s convention in Edmonton in April.

That’s where Tom Mulcair will learn if he has enough support to stay at the helm of the party.

Mulcair has said he plans to stay on as leader as long as he is convinced the NDP can form a government and put its ideas into action.

In an interview with The Canadian Press last month, Mulcair seemed ready to confront some painful lessons from the campaign — but he was far from apologetic about the party’s core messages.

“Despite the ups and downs of that campaign, despite the sometimes unvarnished truth that came out about very specific aspects of the campaign … I think that there’s nothing structural in our offer, there’s nothing about our ability to move this forward that will stop us from forming the government in the future,” he said.

Blaikie said her group has also heard from supporters about the NDP’s successes in addition to its disappointments.

“Many have told us that they were proud of their local campaigns and deeply respected their local candidates,” she said.

“We ran our strongest ground game in history and raised more money than ever before.”

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