Gerald Caplan wonders, in today's Globe and Mail, why the NDP has such a hard time establishing itself outside the prairies. Darrell Dexter's defeat on Tuesday follows a pattern:
It’s not entirely easy to explain, but there are clues. For the four provinces besides Nova Scotia that have ever elected NDP governments, two completely opposite electoral patterns emerged over the decades. In the agreeable tradition, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the NDP wins repeatedly. In the lamentable tradition – BC and Ontario – either the NDP premier or the entire government is gone after a single term. Nova Scotians chose the wrong tradition.
And, though the pattern is clear, the reasons behind it aren't so clear:
All Darrell Dexter needed to do was to discover the Manitoba/ Saskatchewan secret and B.C. and Ontario’s Achilles heel. But here’s the rub. No one knows what works and what doesn’t. Each leader (even Bob Rae, back then) was fully committed to the party’s ideals of social justice and equality, although implementation depended on circumstances. Saskatchewan’s political culture has as many differences from Manitoba as it has commonalities. Nova Scotia, like every province, has its own distinct political traditions. And it’s not clear that the Saskatchewan NDP’s secret even works for Saskatchewan any more.
Certainly part of the explanation has to do with circumstances. Both Bob Rae and Darrell Dexter came to power at the beginning of deep recessions. Perhaps like the Greeks, the Dippers are at the mercy of cruel and petty gods.
It's a conundrum for Tom Mulcair. Will his party follow the prairie tradition or the other tradition? Certainly, Stephen Harper would like to see Mulcair succeed. The bane of his existence is the Liberal Party of Canada.
But where the New Democrats go from here is anybody's guess.