Yvon Godin criticizes Dominic Cardy's NDP campaign tactics

NDP MP Yvon Godin is criticizing the way Dominic Cardy, the party’s provincial leader, ran his election campaign last summer.

Long-time NDP MP says the provincial party drifted too far to the right in the election

NDP MP Yvon Godin said the provincial NDP's campaign shifted too far to the right in the 2014 election. (The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick’s only NDP member of Parliament is criticizing the way the party’s provincial leader ran his election campaign last summer.

Yvon Godin says Dominic Cardy moved the New Brunswick NDP too much to the political centre, diminishing the party’s appeal to voters looking for something different from the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.

“We just have to look at the results,” Godin says, referring to the NDP’s failure to win a single seat despite an aggressive campaign in several ridings.

“The problem, I think, with the provincial party, with Dominic, was that I think he was too much to the right to even be in the centre, and I think people read into that,” the MP for Acadie-Bathurst told CBC News.

“I think it did hurt the party. People were looking for the NDP, they were doing really well, and [voters] wanted change from the existing parties that we have now, who are serving the big corporations and forgetting about the people. I think that’s what happened.”

Cardy took many positions contrary to conventional NDP thinking, including a call for cuts to government spending. He argued the party had to show it could be fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money if it ever wanted to form government.

But Cardy’s strategy caused some long-time NDP supporters to defect to the Green Party.

The Greens elected their first-ever MLA, leader David Coon, in Fredericton South, where former NDP leader Allison Brewer worked on his campaign.

Still, while the NDP failed to elect any MLAs for the third-straight election, the party won almost 13 per cent of the popular vote provincially, almost double what the Greens earned.

Cardy responded to Godin’s criticisms by citing the popular vote as proof voters welcomed the NDP’s moderation, even if it didn’t yield any seats.

He calls the MP’s comments “off the mark” and accused him of not expressing his views when the provincial party was developing its election policies — a process that Cardy says was “unequalled” in its openness.

“He’s not chosen to ever exercise that right,” Cardy says.

“He’s never been to a provincial party meeting during my time as leader.”

He says NDP governments, including the Tommy Douglas administration in Saskatchewan that introduced Medicare, have a strong record of balancing budgets.

“The idea that it’s right-wing to be responsible with taxpayers’ dollars is completely unacceptable and it’s something that goes against the NDP’s long-standing traditions in government. The reason you balance the budget is so you have money to invest in social programs,” he said.

“This idea that all it means to be left-wing is to continue to put money into things that don’t work, or to continue doing things in the same old way — there’s nothing progressive about that at all.”

Godin deciding his political future

Godin was first elected as a federal NDP MP in 1997 and has been re-elected in every election since. Many New Democrats have touted him as a potential leader of the provincial party.

Cardy said on election night he would resign as NDP leader, but reversed himself after the party executive and many defeated candidates asked him to stay on.

I don't intend to run provincially. But you know, saying no completely — I don’t think people ever really say that.- NDP MP Yvon Godin

Godin, a former union leader in northeast New Brunswick, is close to the organized labour wing of the NDP, a group that has been disenchanted with some of Cardy’s positions.

Godin plans to announce next week whether he will seek another term in Ottawa in the federal election in October.

But he says his criticisms of Cardy are not an attempt to lay the groundwork for seeking the provincial leadership.

“I’ve made that decision before. I don’t intend to run provincially,” he says.

“But you know, saying no completely — I don’t think people ever really say that. You never know what happens in life, but I can tell you that right now, I’m not thinking about that.”

Cardy says he won’t make any changes to his approach as leader as a result of Godin’s comments.

“I certainly appreciated Mr. Godin’s support during the campaign and his attendance at a couple of events, but my goal is to continue the work to make sure the NDP is a relevant voice in New Brunswick politics, and that we build on the record result we had in the Sept. 22 election,” he says.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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