Prime Minister Stephen Harper - a rambling ball of awkwardness, and a victim of severe uncoolness
Prime Minister Stephen Harper - a rambling ball of awkwardness, and a victim of severe uncoolness" Photo source/ Laureen Harper

In politics, it seems out of place to take pride in a second place finish.


The 2011 election proved to be a dramatic and unexpected triumph for the NDP. Second place is truly a milestone for Canada’s only orange party, which had finished no better than third since 1935.


The Conservatives achieved their first majority government in over 20 years, while the Liberal Party suffered their biggest collapse in history. The NDP picked up the slack, propelling themselves to Official Opposition for the first time in Canadian history.


Justin Trudeau and the Liberals’ recent rise to popularity has created a new problem for the official opposition—who do they target in the 2015 election?


A Conservative majority would make Stephen Harper one of the longest-serving prime ministers in Canadian history, with a 13-year legacy in office. A Liberal victory would be the biggest comeback of note in Canadian politics, and the start of Canada’s first political dynasty with the Trudeau family.


What would an NDP victory signify? Is it even possible in the current political landscape for the current #2s to form the next government?


In the 2011 election, the party won 31 per cent of the popular vote compared to only 19 per cent for the Liberals, a complete flip from past results. Yet, the Orange Crush in 2011 hinged on two factors—Jack Layton and significant support from Quebecers.


When Layton passed away in 2011 and Tom Mulcair eventually became leader of the NDP in early 2012, the party was boosted to 35 per cent support—more popular than the Conservatives for several months.


The honeymoon was short-lived, however, and the NDP has been on a steady decline ever since.


While polls certainly do not decide an election, the Liberals have gone from third to consistently placing first with Justin Trudeau as leader. It’s a hard but true fact for the NDP to swallow that Trudeau is a more popular leader than Mulcair and continues to hold a lead over Harper—a larger and longer lead than Mulcair has ever had.


The NDP’s situation in Quebec is even more dire than the leadership question. Forty-seven per cent of Quebec decided to vote NDP in 2011, where most of their seats currently are. Now, Liberals have made a comeback and lead the NDP 38 per cent to 29 per cent in the province. If New Democrats have any chance of winning in 2015, they have to dominate in Quebec.


Was the Orange Crush an electoral fad? The ultimate question for the second-place NDP remains: who to target? Do they go after Stephen Harper or the Liberals, who are poised to kick them back into third?


The NDP has a lot more in common with Liberals than it does with Conservatives. Even if they do return to third in 2015, being open to cooperation with the Liberals is critical if the NDP want a say, especially if Harper wins a minority.


For democracy’s sake, the opposition party’s main target must always be the government, even if Trudeau is taking the wind out of the NDP’s sails. If they want to be seen as a legitimate opposition and future government rather than a passing political fancy, they must always strive for that top spot.


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