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The election that will change the federal political landscape: the NDP and Quebec

For politicos, political scientists and the intelligentsia this is rapidly shaping up to be a watershed moment in Canadian federal politics. Ever since the founding of the NDP they have been systematically locked out of Québec and thus widely considered to be a minor third party in a more or less two party system.

There is this weird cohort of Québecois voters that have neither Madame Chantal H’s script in their heads nor that of red and blue federalists. Let us for once call them what they are: a hybrid of soft progressive nationalists and soft federalists. They are not the product of committed ideological instinct (nationalist, liberal socialist or otherwise). They are by instinct politically pragmatic and progressive.

How do I know this? Well partly it is through the interaction of the students I have been teaching for the last four years and partly it is through my regional connections. The NDP is getting traction in regions like the Saguenay. And despite spending a beautiful evening in Chicoutimi listening to a live concert by L. Cohen I have never had the feeling the region was paying much attention to the Canadian federal scene. Friends I have stopped talking politics with now offer up their enthusiasm for the NDP (NPD).

So what is going on. Undoubtedly a very strong campaign by the NDP in the province but there is something bigger going on. Young Québecois (35 and under) understand themselves as progressive and modern to the point where the image of modern is progressive and vice a versa. Nationalism seems odd in a world of globalization but the neoliberal reality of globalization seems like an anathema to progress. What then?

The answer to that question also provides the answer to the question as to the allure of the NDP. Given the near sheer ignorance of the 35 and under crowd about the ROC the NDP manages to have a freshly pressed image because the NDP is really new for them. The conservatives and the liberals do not have this advantage nor can they get it. But what is more the NDP with all its shiny new like glow also looks incredibly competent and progressive enough.

Whatever happens in this election, conservative majority or liberal minority; the NDP can no longer be considered minority third party and the liberals will no longer be able to take their own left wing for granted.

The sky may be blue, hell may be red but more earthly desires are in play here.

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