Are the Ontario NDP’s TikToks effective?

Cat photoshopped in a banana costume

Youth voter turnout has been on the decline since the 1990s.

Aside from 2015 and 2019, the first two times Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected, almost every election since the 90s has brought fewer and fewer young people to the polls.

This is clearly not a new issue, but since the new year, the Ontario New Democratic Party, the official opposition in Ontario, seems to have adopted a new strategy to engage young and future voters — memification.

Cat photoshopped in a banana costume
Contributed Image

Memification is not in the dictionary, but to me, it refers to making a meme, or a web-culture inside joke, out of real-life scenarios— they can be harmless, self-deprecating or poking fun at others.

When it comes to politics, memes are more than just a silly little joke, they can have a real impact on how people vote.

Based on this, it’s important to think about their use a little more deeply than you would other kinds of memes.

The ONDP have been using TikTok to throw jabs at the Ford Conservatives and new provincial Liberal Leader, Bonnie Crombie, as well as to highlight the issues Ontarians are currently facing and how they, and leader Marit Styles, plan to fix them. Sounds pretty normal, right? Wrong.

One of the recurring characters in the ONDP’s videos is Banana Cat, a cat dressed as a banana and the star in their series “Banana Cat explains,” which combines stock images and sound effects, popular TikTok sounds and cat memes to explain the “New Democats’” strategy to address shortages in healthcare, schools in desperate need of repairs and high grocery costs.

Other styles of videos include the classic Subway Surfer split screen to ensure viewers have something actually interesting to look at, and an anime opening pitting the main characters of the PC Party of Ontario: Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clarke — who took the blame for the Greenbelt scandal, against the ONDP’s Styles, Jill Andrew, and Kristyn Wong-Tam.

When the ONDP were criticized for their cat videos by conservative MPP Goldie Ghamari in question period at Queen’s Park, they responded with a “this you?” style video pulling up headlines about the indefinite suspension of her license to practice law and her disbelief in climate change.

I have to admit, the ONDP’s TikTok’s are entertaining and a bit funny, if only because of how absurd they are, but I have to wonder if they’ll only make real adults — those over 25 who are most likely to vote — take the party even less seriously than they already do.

The account currently has more than 11,000 followers, and their most popular video has nearly half a million views.

As an almost 23-year-old who actually does pay attention to politics outside of TikTok, I’m not sure I’m the target audience for these videos and that definitely plays into my skepticism about their effectiveness.

But based on the ONDP’s comment section it seems the videos are resonating with who they’re supposed to.

Elections Canada has recognized that youth are more likely to trust information they receive online now than they have been in the past, and they recommend that simple, direct and interactive messaging over social media be used more often to capture Gen Z’s attention.

The ONDP has certainly taken that advice, but we’ll only really know if Banana Cat inspired youth voters to hit the polls come election season in 2026.

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