What’s Up with NDP’s Fuzzy Math?


The Liberal surge in the polls have meant that the NDP must face the possibility that their governmental ambitions maybe only seen in the rearview mirror, but Tom Mulcair has no intention of going gently into that good night. While campaigning over the weekend, Mulcair, his candidates, and NDP staffers are now submitting the message that if Canadians want to get rid of Stephen Harper, the NDP is the best alternative because the math is on their side. Yes, the NDP say that they need only 35 more seats to defeat Stephen Harper, but what does that mean?

In a video posted to Facebook last week, NDP senior campaign adviser Brad Lavigne said his party is still the best choice for the ABC (Anyone But Conservative) crowd. “The Liberals won just 34 seats in Parliament, in the last election, which means that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals would need to win 100 more seats to form a government. That is not a realistic path to victory,” Lavigne explained. “Our path to victory is much simpler. In 2011, the NDP won 103 seats, and today Tom Mulcair needs just 35 more seats to defeat Stephen Harper.”

Yes, the NDP won 103 seats in 2011, but when Parliament dissolved in August they had only 95 seats. When you add 35 to that total, it makes 130, which is still 29 seats short of the number the Conservatives had when Parliament dissolved, and 24 short of majority government territory. Of course, 30 more seats have been added to Parliament’s total this election, meaning that any party will need 170 seats to form a majority government.

So I wondered if perhaps the NDP meant that with current seat projections, all they needed was 35 more seats. According to Éric Grenier’s Poll Tracker through, current seat projects put the Conservatives at 118 and the NDP at 80, which would still leave the NDP three seats shy of tying the Tories, and just over 20 seats short of tying the currently leading Liberals.

So what do the NDP mean when they say they need 35 more seats, and why was Tom Mulcair repeating it today? And aren’t they making a pretty big assumption about the solidity of their existing support? Liberal spokeswoman Kate Purchase told the Huffington Post that “Brad and the Mulcair team are taking all the people who voted for Jack Layton for granted. That’s arrogant.” Considering that the NDP is slipping in the polls in Quebec, Purchase’s analysis would seem to be correct.

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