The New Democratic Party has been surging in the polls. In the most recent polls, the surge is most evident in the province of Quebec, lags in Ontario, but has brought the party into a statistical tie with the Conservative in the rest of the country. Both the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party have lost favour in Quebec. The New Democrats (NDP) have a newly elected leader, Thomas Mulcair, who is also the Leader of the Official Opposition.
The Conservative Party and the NDP represent two totally different visions for Canada.
The Conservative Party, similar to the GOP stands for lower taxes, smaller government, more decentralization of federal government powers to the provinces, and a tougher stand on "law and order" issues.
During last year's election, the Conservative Party ran on the Canada Action Plan, with a budget that had been introduced prior to the dissolution of Parliament. It promised Senate reform, including term limits. One of the mainstays of the Reform Party was a EEE (Elected, Equal and Effective) Senate. Harper may be able to achieve the Elected and Effective, however equal requires the approval of the provinces and Quebec and Ontario are not likely to give up their present numbers advantage.
The New Democratic Party stands for many issues embraced today in the Democratic Party. The party embodies gender equality and equal rights for the LBGT community, improving environmental protection, national water standards, reducing poverty and increasing corporate taxes, while decreasing taxes for small business. It further promotes aggressive human rights protection, improving public transportation, improving universality of health care, to include prescription drug coverage and dental care. During the last election, the party unveiled its 2011 Platform.
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The Conservative Party has been plagued with several problems recently, including "Robocalls", buget cuts, particulary in the public service sector, with 19,000 civil servants receiving their pink slips last week. The procurement of the F35B stealth fighter purchase with apparent massive cost overruns is another thorn in their side. A recent report by the Auditor General suggests that the government misled the Canadian public on the actual cost of the program. The government contends that it is an accounting issue. Without going into specific details, the robocalls, budget and the fighter issue have raised enough doubt to make the government vulnerable.
Most recently the Omnibus budget bill, which included sweeping changes to environmental legislation has come under fire by opponents. Although the opposition used every possible maneouver to stop the bill, including fillbusting with more than 100 amendments, the bill passed without an amendment.
The conservative government is also criticized for its position on environmental issues, particularly the Alberta Oil Sands and the construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would transport oil from Alberta to the west coast, through environmentally sensitive areas. The majority of citizens inoppose the pipeline and oil tanker traffic on the west coast.
Yesterday, scientists from around the country protested on parliament hill because of defunding of scientific research. Needless to say, there is considerable opposition to the bill and this will surely hurt the government during the next election.
Thomas Mulcair, the newly elected leader of the NDP, says that he has an obligation to reach out beyond the traditional base of the NDP and try to rally all progressives across Canada.
"My primary obligation is to reach out beyond the NDP's traditional base, to try to rally all progressives across Canada under the NDP banner."
This appears to have occurred in Quebec with relative success. Mulcair has his work cut out in Ontario and Western Canada. Some of his recent popularity may be due to a bump in poll numbers after the leadership race and the problems that the present government is experiencing. Three years in politics is a long time though. In the end it will boil down to the health of the economy and delivery of health care.
The wild card is still the future of the Liberal Party of Canada. Rumours have it that Justin Trudeau, son of the former Prime Minister may throw his hat in the rink for leader of that party. There are also rumours that Alison Redford, Alberta's Progressive Conservative Premier has ambitions for national office.
The battle lines have been drawn and there are two opposing views, with very different platforms. Both parties will have to sell their platform as the best direction for the country.