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NDP tops the polls under Broadbent

As leader of the NDP, Ed Broadbent was a democratic socialist who loved to smoke cigars and drive fast cars. Broadbent led his party through contentious constitutional debates and weathered a western revolt before capturing the party's biggest seat count ever in 1988. After 14 years and four elections he resigned the leadership and became a human rights advocate, and in 2004 he made a political comeback to sit in Parliament once more.

Between a standing ovation from his caucus and jokes from the prime minister, it's been a good day for Ed Broadbent. For the first time ever, the NDP has more support from Canadians than either the governing party or the Opposition -- 37 per cent to the Liberals' 36 per cent and the Tories' 25 per cent. In this clip from CBC News, Broadbent says the numbers prove Canadians believe the NDP will fight for the average person. 
. As pollster Angus Reid predicted in this clip, the surge in popularity for the NDP was not just a blip. Two months after this clip, in July 1987, the NDP was at 41 per cent popularity compared with 35 per cent for the Liberals and 23 per cent for the Progressive Conservatives.
. Less than two weeks later, the NDP won three by-elections in federal ridings in the Yukon, Hamilton and St. John's.

. According to Maclean's, the trend was worrying enough to the federal Liberals that leader John Turner made changes to his election planning committee.
. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney reacted to the by-election results by saying: "Clearly, the people in those constituencies are telling us that Canadians want us to perform better as a government."
. Among other measures, the NDP responded to positive poll results by redoubling its efforts in Quebec, Alberta and the Atlantic provinces.

. Broadbent was also personally popular. Another poll in May 1987 found that he had the approval of 57 per cent of respondents; the Liberals' John Turner had 30 per cent approval and Mulroney had 24 per cent.
. Broadbent's popularity was definitely not a blip; it had been solid for a year and a half. "It's more than just the fact that he's a nice guy," said pollster Angus Reid. "He's also seen as a reasonably effective leader."

. Broadbent worked hard in the 1970s and '80s to polish his image. He had his teeth fixed to eliminate a gap in front, and he abandoned his professorial tweeds and corduroy suits for a more modern look.
. In 1984 Broadbent hired a new TV-savvy press secretary, Rob Mingay. According to a 1988 profile in Saturday Night, Mingay "cut down on Broadbent's TV makeup, improved his wardrobe, and helped Broadbent master the art of the 30-second TV news clip."

. The forerunner to the NDP, the CCF, enjoyed a lead in national polls for a short time in 1943. According to a 1987 article in Maclean's, business leaders, politicians and much of the press reacted with alarm, launching "a massive campaign that portrayed the CCF as everything from Nazi to communist. The party's support plunged."
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 13, 1987
Guest(s): Lloyd Axworthy, Ed Broadbent, Jim Jepson, Angus Reid, Brian Tobin
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: David Halton
Duration: 2:49

Last updated: March 20, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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