WINNIPEG — Faced with a poll earlier this year that said Newfoundlanders were fed up with their government, Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale decided to treat the dire forecast as an opportunity.
“They (bad polls) keep us on our toes when we might be tempted to lay back and coast on our laurels,” Premier Dunderdale said.
The worst thing a wounded party can do is assemble its war room and plan a series of new programs and inducements in an effort to spend its way up the ladder and into the good graces of the people.
Faced with its own devastating mid-term poll by Probe Research, Manitoba’s ruling NDP may be tempted to do just that — spend some more, while obscuring the true deficit — but that approach will not get the party out of the basement.
The party may hope its old strategy of portraying itself as progressive and moderate, while demonizing the Conservatives as regressive and cold-hearted, will once again do the trick.
That hound, as they say, is unlikely to hunt again in the next election.
Judging by the latest poll conducted this month, the NDP’s strategy of endless announcements and ministerial appearances at new infrastructure, hospital additions and children’s spray pads has worn out its political value.
The NDP decline was evident in a poll last September, but the downward trend is continuing.
Some of it is undoubtedly attributable to the barrage of negative publicity that accompanied the rise in the provincial sales tax, but the party is also suffering the fate of long-term governments. Eventually, the rose begins to wither and fade.
In the NDP’s case, the bloom has fallen off in every quadrant of the city, except the core area, where it leads with 39 per cent of decided voters, compared with 28 for the Liberals and 22 for the Progressive Conservatives.
Everywhere else in Winnipeg, however, the Tories dominate, particularly the northeast, where they hold a commanding 64 per cent of the vote compared with 27 for the NDP. In southwest Winnipeg, the NDP outshines the Tories 47 to 24, and 35 to 24 in the southeast.
In total, the Tories have the support of four out of 10 voters in Winnipeg; the lead is even bigger provincewide.
The NDP still has roughly two years to reverse its fortune, but it will require something dramatic and convincing. The party, unfortunately, has been averse to innovation or anything that resembles risk.
Premier Greg Selinger says he intends to fight the next election, even though he is the person most closely associated with the party’s tax increases and its deficit.
The party, then, appears unlikely to change course, but it may already be too late for that.
» This is a Winnipeg Free Press editorial.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 2, 2014