Politics

We're not broke and we will bring down the Liberals if principles are at stake: NDP

The NDP says it's ready for a fall election campaign if necessary, stating it is in a better or equivalent financial position compared to the 2019 vote. 

NDP says it's in a better position because it has almost paid down its 2019 campaign debt

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu react on stage at his election night headquarters in Burnaby, B.C., on Oct. 22, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

The NDP says it's ready for a fall election campaign if necessary, stating it is in a better or equivalent financial position compared to the 2019 vote. 

The party's national director, Anne McGrath, dismissed critics who've assumed the NDP won't bring down the Liberal minority government because New Democrats couldn't afford a costly election. 

"We have fought elections on less ... and done well," McGrath said.

In an interview with CBC News, McGrath didn't hide her party's money troubles. But she dismissed assumptions that the NDP wouldn't be able to wage an effective election campaign.

If needed, McGrath said, the party would fund a sudden election campaign with a mix of its own money and borrowing. Parties with the biggest war chest don't necessarily win campaigns, she added.

"Money is one piece, and it is an important piece — but it's not the only piece."

This week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, through the Governor General, prorogued parliament. When parliament returns, the Liberals will likely trigger a series of confidence votes. The party will initiate a speech from the throne, which outlines the government's mandate and a possible budget. Both require support from at least one of the main opposition parties. If the Liberals fail to secure the support of another party for their spending plans, Canadians could see an election in the next few months. 

McGrath's comments about the NDP's willingness to fight a fall election went further than what party leader Jagmeet Singh said on the issue this week.

 "If the Liberals continue to help themselves or continue to be fighting themselves instead of helping people ... Then we will look at all options," Singh said in Vancouver on Tuesday. 

The decision to support the Liberals isn't based on the NDP's financial statements but "on principle," McGrath said, adding that her party will continue to push Trudeau's government to provide support for unemployed workers, persons with disabilities, paid sick days and investments in affordable childcare.

Eliminating the 2019 campaign debt

McGrath said the NDP has made strides paying down its $10 million campaign debt from the last election; the party still owes about $1.5 million. The party set a target of eliminating that debt by the end of this year, before the pandemic hit.

"I am quite happy with the way that the fundraising is going, and I am hopeful that we can pay off the debt," McGrath said.

NDP National Director Anne McGrath is shown as she attends the NDP Federal Council meeting in Ottawa in 2014. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

The NDP saw a bump in fundraising during the last quarter; New Democrats raised $1.3-million, up from $963,923 in the previous quarter. However, the NDP has significantly trailed the other major parties in fundraising.

Up to June 30, here is what each party has raised this year: 

  • Conservatives: $7.3 million.
  • Liberals: $5.5 million.
  • NDP: $2.3 million.
  • Greens: $1.2 million.

Maxime Bernier's People's Party, which captured less than two per cent of the vote in the 2019 election and failed to win a seat, ended the year with just under $400,000 in net assets. By comparison, at the end of 2018 — the NDP's 2019 report is not yet available — the New Democrats had net negative assets of $4.5 million.

Candidate selection will soon begin

McGrath said the NDP would soon focus on attracting a diverse slate of candidates to key ridings who would be ready to run in the next election, whenever it's called. She said the party's federal council will meet virtually in September to finalize the rules for nominations. 

Although McGrath thinks the NDP is ready, the NDP Socialist Caucus, an unofficial group within the party, isn't confident. 

Barry Weisleder, the caucus's chair, fears for his party's prospects in a fall election. Weisleder, a vocal advocate for reform within the NDP, said the party ignored its grassroots when it cancelled a national convention scheduled for 2020 before the pandemic hit. The NDP postponed the convention because the gatherings tend to be expensive.

Weisleder said the socialist caucus still wants to see a virtual convention. Postponing one robs the party of an opportunity to conduct a critical 2019 election postmortem and a review of Singh's leadership.

"I fear that despite all the scandals surrounding Justin Trudeau that the Liberal Party may be able to secure a majority mandate," Weisleder said. "And the NDP vote and its representation in parliament will be even further reduced."

About the Author

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

With files from Eric Grenier

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