I’m only freshly out of the sports department so I can’t help but compare the political arena to the sports arena.
And in both realms momentum is always a huge factor.
In sports, momentum at the right time can lift a team or an athlete over a superior opponent. The combination of confidence and support can quickly change the odds of any showdown.
So as I read the news this week that the federal New Democratic Party has watched its rank of supporters swell by 50 per cent in six months it’s obvious there is momentum on the party’s side.
Certainly the allure of the late Jack Layton was always a beacon for loyal followers and many more jumped on the bandwagon in last year’s federal election.
Many Liberal supporters and Bloc supporters in Quebec became tired of their party’s platforms and leadership and began to look at the alternative.
That resulted in a huge boost of fortunes in La Belle Province, which in effect lifted the party to new heights.
They can also thank the ruling Conservative party for galvanizing the opposition. The Tories heavy-handed approach and U.S.-style rhetoric has not only turned people against them but made many bystanders begin to think of how they can change the direction we appear to be drifting towards.
And that has all benefited the NDP.
Canadians by nature are content to enjoy their peace and quiet, let things flow smoothly and not make many waves.
But the recent moves by our federal government, from interfering in union bargaining before it starts, pushing for more freedom by ending the gun registry but pushing for more surveillance with its online bill and calling people who disagree with them “radicals,” or “siding with child pornographers,” is simply too much for even the mildest-mannered Canuck to swallow.
So in that sense, the federal government has empowered the NDP and the Liberals for that matter.
However, the tricky thing about momentum is that if you don’t use it wisely it evaporates and often can be an anchor as you begin to second-guess where it suddenly went.
Here’s where the NDP needs to step up its game.
Certainly the more experienced Liberal MPs, like Bob Rae, have been showcasing their talents for calling out the government on several issues during question period.
Even Justin Trudeau has been garnering headlines for his comments. As controversial as it was, his quote about Quebec having a legitimate excuse to separate because of the direction Harper is taking the country isn’t that absurd. Many of us are wondering where the country is headed with more jets, more jails all at the cost of social programs that are near and dear to many hearts.
Even at the Liberal party convention there was talk of empowering its younger members and supporting marijuana legalization. Those are issues on the minds of the next generation of supporters. Those are issues the NDP use to talk about.
The Liberals are seizing these issues and grabbing hold of them.
So in that sense, who has the momentum now?
That’s why the NDP needs to get through its leadership convention quickly and clean and come out with the right person who can show Canadians that they truly are a legitimate alternative to the Tories.
They need to clearly state what they have to offer as an alternative.
In Parliament, they can still follow Layton’s rule of decorum who always got his point across in a forceful yet respectful manner.
Those are things that attracted the typical Canadian to Layton’s style and the lack of those qualities in the current political climate has turned many people away.
Right now Rae and the Liberals appear to have more savvy at questioning the government and that will certainly turn heads of the disenchanted Grits who rode the Orange Wave in the last election.
If the Liberals have the right leader and the Tories keep turning off the electorate, then it’s not far-fetched to think that they can reclaim some of their voters who went to the NDP.
The one thing I hope NDP doesn’t do is fall into the trap of pandering to the Quebec voters simply to win seats.
The recent support totals show their strength lies in Ontario and B.C., which is something they can’t overlook.
So this is a critical time for the NDP. They finally have the numbers, they have the official party status and they have the momentum, albeit dwindling in my view.
What they do with it is what will determine their future in the Canadian political landscape.