A strong NDP does not necessarily translate into a Conservative win

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Listening to Conservatives whining these days, you would think that the only thing preventing Andrew Scheer from becoming Prime Minister is Jagmeet Singh.

While the prevalent narrative is that a strong NDP would mean a Conservative government, what do the facts actually show?

Since its creation in 1961, the New Democratic Party of Canada has an historical electoral average of 16,66%.  Out of 18 elections, the NDP was above its historical average 11 times.  Out of these 11 occurrences, the Liberals won 5 elections and the Conservatives won 6 times.  Pretty even stuff, I’d say.  In fact, when you look at the NDP’s top 4 results, you get two Conservative majority governments (1988 and 2011) and two Liberal majority governments (1980 and 2015).

The truth is, the performance of the NDP during an election has not been the determining factor of Conservative victories over the past 55 years.  The Conservatives win when they stay united and when they can convince a significant number of Liberal voters to turn their way.

Those are the two keys for a Conservative win, as shown by Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper.
When the right is split, it is virtually impossible for right-wing parties to win, no matter what the NDP does.  It was the case when the Social Credit emerged in the 60s.  It was the case when the Reform Party broke out in the 90s.  It will be the case if Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party actually takes off.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer has yet to convince the Red-Blue switchers, the voters that have actually decided pretty much every election since the 60s, to abandon Trudeau.  Hoping the NDP will somehow provide the Conservatives a shortcut to power is not only lazy, it is also doomed to fail.  You cannot count on your opponents to perform the way you want them to and deliver power to you.  You must win on your own terms.

If Conservatives actually really believe that their only way to power is through an NDP surge, they should at least try to change the narrative to include the NDP in the national political conversation.  Instead, they are taking the Liberal bait in framing the next election into a two-way race.  If they really believe they need the NDP, how does that make any sense?

Yet, despite the lacklustre performance of Jagmeet Singh and the multiple troubles the NDP has put itself through, the party is currently polling above its historical average.  CBC aggregator Eric Grenier is actually pegging the party’s support at 16.7%.  Not a bad starting point, if that’s their floor.

Still, Conservatives would be well advised to stop feeding the narrative that a strong NDP is good for them.  Because not only is it not necessarily true, it is also unhelpful to both parties: it only drives New Democrat voters to the Liberal Party.

Photo Credit: CBC News

More from Karl Bélanger.    Follow Karl Bélanger on Twitter at @KarlBelanger.

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