The Federal NDP faces both challenges and opportunities in the anticipated 2008 federal election. NDP MP Peggy Nash is widely expected to be in the fight of her political life against Gerard Kennedy in Parkdale-High Park. In addition, after dismal NDP results in the 2007 provincial election, London-Fanshawe’s Irene Mathyssen and Sault Ste. Marie’s Tony Martin may also be in trouble.
However, the NDP also has room to grow, especially if the Liberals take a nosedive in the midst of an election campaign.
The following eight seats are what I see as the party’s priority targets:
Thunder Bay – Superior North
With incumbent MP Joe Comuzzi's decision to cross the floor from the Liberals to the Tories, this Northern Ontario riding is ripe for the picking. The NDP came within 309 votes of taking it in 2006, and represented the riding from 1984-1988.
Thunder Bay – Rainy River
This riding, which overlaps with the provincial riding of Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton, was lost by roughly 700 votes to the party in 2006. The party did extremely well here in the 2007 provincial election and has a history of representing the area from 1984-1993.
A long history of NDP representation combined with the retirement of Liberal MP Raymond Bonin has given the NDP an unprecedented opportunity to win back this Northern Ontario riding. A provincial NDP stronghold, the federal party has come incredibly close to winning Nickel Belt in the last two elections.
Liberal incumbent John Maloney has lucked out through a series of vote splits in the 2000, 2004, and 2006 elections. This time, local New Democrats have wised up and nominated Malcolm Allen, deputy Mayor of Pelham, as their candidate. Allen and Welland’s longtime NDP MPP Peter Kormos act like Siamese twins at public events, indicating that the party thinks they have finally found a winning federal candidate. The NDP finished second here and came within 5% of knocking off the Liberals in 2006. Expect a close three way race in 2008.
Although the NDP dropped from 2nd to 3rd place between 2004 and 2006, the party is still very much in the game. If there is a shift away from the Liberals and towards the NDP in Northern Ontario (like the shift that took place in the 2007 Ontario election) expect the NDP to pick up this seat.
Beaches - East York
Former NDP MPP Marilyn Churley is back and ready for a rematch with Liberal incumbent Maria Minna. Churley is a favourite of Layton’s (she quit provincial politics for a federal run) and her riding is next door to the NDP leader’s riding. Expect a spill-over effect and additional resources to flow into this riding from across the GTA. Minna won by just over 5% last time. It will be a hard gap to overcome, but if anyone can do it in this riding, it's Churley.
This is the stomping ground of longtime (former) NDP MPP Bud Wildman. However, the party has never had much success here federally. In 2004 and 2006, the NDP put up a good fight, but fell marginally short. As a relative unknown, NDP candidate Carol Hughes almost won the seat for the NDP in 2006. She has now gained experience and the attention of the party leadership. Expect the central campaign to boost her fortunes this time around with additional resources.
Three time loser Sid Ryan will likely not offer himself up as a candidate for a fifth time, therefore making Oshawa even more of a longshot for the NDP. The presence of a Conservative rather than Liberal incumbent will only make it a harder hill to climb for the party. However, an unexpected Tory collapse could hand Oshawa over to the NDP. It’s a longshot for sure.