Cablegate: Ndp Plans to Run "Largest Campaign" Ever

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1. (SBU) Summary: New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack
Layton has announced that the NDP "will run the largest
campaign that our party has ever run in its history" in the
next federal elections, which many observers believe will
take place in 2008. Although it holds the fewest seats of
the four major parties in the House of Commons, the NDP
significantly increased its representation in the last
federal elections, and hopes to build on momentum from a 2007
by-election victory in Quebec. With strong ties to organized
labor and a platform focused on social justice, the NDP has
built its reputation on supporting Canada's working families.
The NDP continues to call for the immediate withdrawal of
Canadian troops from Afghanistan, but is not an influential
voice in foreign affairs. End summary.


2. (U) In a year-end interview, NDP leader Jack Layton said
that the NDP is already gearing up for "what appears to be an
increasingly likely election" in 2008. He admitted, however,
that the timing of a federal election will depend largely on
when the Liberal Party decides finally to oppose the
government on a confidence measure, rather than maintain its
policy of "whipped abstentions." Layton claimed that "we're
more prepared than we've ever been. We'll run the largest
campaign that our party has ever run in its history." Layton
added that he had been especially encouraged by the NDP's
victory in a September by-election in Outremont, Quebec.
Layton commented that the Quebec victory would help cast the
NDP as a national party, since "you can't really offer
yourself as a governing team if you're not able to bring
forward voices from Quebec. That's always been an obstacle
to our growth." Layton voiced optimism about the NDP's
national prospects, claiming that "what I'm seeing is that
more people have their door open to a conversation with New
Democrats." The NDP will begin its election preparations in
mid-January with an Ottawa meeting of NDP federal and
provincial leaders from across the country.


3. (SBU) In any future elections, the NDP likely plans
prominently to contrast the articulate Layton -- a former
Toronto Councilor who became NDP leader in 2003 -- with
Liberal leader Stephane Dion, whom opponents have labeled as
a mild-mannered academic with weak leadership skills and a
shaky grasp of English. According to a November 2007 SES
poll, 17 percent of Canadians rated Layton as the best choice
for Prime Minister, compared with only 13 percent who chose
Dion, while 37 percent supported Conservative Prime Minister
Stephen Harper. A November 2007 online Angus-Reid poll had
even more striking results, with 34 pct saying that Layton
would make a good Prime Minister, and only 23 supporting
Dion. The Liberals will likely counter-claim that support
for the NDP in the 2006 elections effectively resulted in the
Conservatives' victory, and will stress that a vote for the
NDP is really a vote for the Conservatives next time around
as well.

4. (U) While holding only 30 seats in the Commons (the fewest
of the four major parties), the NDP's representation is up
significantly from the 19 seats it had won in 2004. However,
according to a December Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey,
NDP support nationwide was only 15 percent, compared with 32
percent for the Liberals and 30 percent for the
Conservatives. Even this level is a drop from the 17 percent
support the NDP received in the 2006 elections.
Qsupport the NDP received in the 2006 elections.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
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5. (U) The NDP has always billed itself as the defender of
working families. It supports increasing access to
affordable housing, securing public health care, protecting
collective bargaining rights, establishing universal access
to child care, and generally expanding social assistance
programs. On foreign policy, the NDP supports greater
assistance for Africa and other poverty-stricken areas. The
party is critical of free trade, calling for the dismantling
of NAFTA and blaming free trade policies for the loss of
Canadian manufacturing jobs. The environment is also one of
the NDP's major issues, with the party attacking the
Conservatives for joining the United States and Japan in
insisting that a climate change agreement include all major
emitters, including China and India. The NDP has also called
the Liberals weak on climate change, criticizing their
decision not to vote against the Conservatives' October 2007

OTTAWA 00000006 002 OF 002

"Speech from the Throne" in which the government announced
Canada would abandon its commitments under the Kyoto

6. (SBU) The NDP remains the only political party calling for
the immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.
Layton has charged that the recent turmoil in Pakistan
further demonstrates that Canada is on the wrong track in
Afghanistan, saying that the country should focus on aid and
reconstruction efforts rather than military operations. In a
December meeting with PolMinCouns and poloff, NDP foreign
affairs critic Paul Dewar insisted that the NDP would remain
adamant against the continuation of the Canadian Forces'
mission in Afghanistan -- not just in Kandahar -- whatever
the Manley Panel might recommend, and he predicted that
Afghanistan would be a major issue in the next elections.


7. (U) The NDP has no hope in the foreseeable future of
winning enough seats to form a government, but may be able to
hold on to its current level of support and even do better,
given the persistently weak popularity of both Conservative
leader Stephen Harper and Dion. The NDP has carved out a
niche among traditional leftist and working class Canadian
voters, and will remain a minor force in the next election,
although it needs to be watchful of the even smaller Green
Party, which is attempting to garner support from the same
pool of environmentally-minded liberal voters. The NDP's
primary focus will remain on domestic policy, and, with its
rigid stance on the Afghanistan issue, the NDP has
essentially taken itself out of a responsible debate on the
future of this mission, as well as other foreign policies of
even less concern to its core constituencies.

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