NDP rise marks a historic but also irrelevant change

It was only weeks ago that the New Democratic Party (NDP) barely registered 14 per cent of the popular vote in public opinion polls.

On Monday night, in Canada’s 41st election, the NDP is projected to easily surpass 30 per cent and reduce the Liberal Party of Canada to a shadow of its former electoral self.

At the same time, the equally momentous decline of the Bloc Quebecois underscores the bittersweet ending for the NDP. Reduced to a handful of single seats, the demise of the Bloc landed Prime Minister Harper his much-coveted majority and severely limited the power Jack Layton will have as Leader of the Official Opposition.

If, together, the Liberals and Bloc had retained just a dozen or so more seats, the NDP would have played the role of parliamentary kingmaker in a minority situation; the essential power-player in the backrooms of Ottawa.

Arguably, Harper would have been forced to move Conservative policy further left and Layton could have delivered on some of his idealistic campaign policies.
Instead, Jack Layton will be left yelling and screaming at a prime minister whose party now has very few checks on its decisions in the next four years.

While the NDP has a conventional role to play as the runner-up, it will have very little real power to stop legislation that Conservatives are adamant to pass. The right wing has the votes and while Layton can put up a fight, it will be relatively moot.

While the NDP result is no doubt historic — and while it is also a clear and harsh rebuke of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff — the NDP fell far short of the position in could have potentially held in the 41st Parliament.

Still, a Harper majority might be the perfect way for the NDP to settle in as Official Opposition. Having avoided the actual task of governing, the NDP can hammer away at the Conservatives for four whole years and potentially establish itself as a legitimate long-term leader of the left.