Campaign review will prepare NDP for future elections

The NDP’s campaign review is an opportunity to talk to candidates and organizers to find out what worked, and what didn’t, during the party’s $25-million national election campaign, say those familiar with the process.

The party picked up one riding in the Sept. 20 vote, giving it 25 seats in the House of Commons. Last week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Bob Dewar, a veteran NDP political strategist, will lead the review.

The debrief process will allow people to share their experiences of the campaign. They can also say what the party should invest in, where it fell short, and what needs to change before the next campaign, said NDP national director Anne McGrath.

“It’s a place where people can talk about how they felt about (the campaign), and give their best advice for what to keep doing, what to stop doing, and what to change,” she told iPolitics.

During the five-week campaign, Singh visited 51 ridings, most of them held by a Liberal or a Conservative. The party won 17.8 per cent of all votes, more than the 15.9 per cent it got in 2019.

“Elections are about winning seats,” said Peggy Nash, a former Ontario NDP MP. “Ultimately, if you were successful is measured by the number of seats you won … and votes you got.”

Despite picking up just one riding, the party won more votes — and its efforts to pick up more seats in the Greater Toronto Area might have been outside its control, Nash said. Singh tried hard to reach students and Indigenous Peoples, but he was likely stymied by the short campaign period, she said.

Other ridings could have benefited from a stronger presence on the ground and better organization, Nash added.

The review should also consider what was spent, and what it should spend on in future, McGrath said.

“I don’t think anyone (will) argue we should have (fewer) lawn signs, ads, and organizers,” she said. “I would like to be able to do more next time.”

The party always makes adjustments after a campaign review, she added. For example, after the 2019 election, the NDP was left with $7.7 million in campaign debt, so it reduced staff and postponed its convention to help pay it down.

After this year’s campaign, the party will assess its staffing needs in the next few months, then likely increase staff before the next campaign, McGrath said.

Another problem the NDP has in every election is many Canadians voting Liberal because they think the NDP has no hope of winning.

The party hasn’t answered that to her satisfaction, Nash said, and while the Liberals won by offering more of the same, the NDP could have pushed for more compelling ballot questions.

Singh is likable and has built his profile, but the party “needs a more urgent message of why this leader, why this party, why now,” she said.

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