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It's never been easy being the NDP. The main problem with any traditional left-wing merger of farmers' and workers' interests is that farmers' and workers' interests differ, and that diversion has only increased with time. You only need to look at the NDP's numbers in rural Saskatchewan vs. the Conservatives' numbers in the same place to see the extent to which the NDP has already lost ground in its 'traditional' ridings. They're still doing well in BC, but otherwise the NDP is slowly mutating into an Eastern Canadian urban party.
As an Eastern Canadian urban NDP supporter, I can't say I mind: the party is starting to look more and more like me. What's to complain about? But I know that any party that wants to present itself as a legitimate alternative needs to present itself as as nation-wide as possible. Not only West/East but rural/urban as well. Plus those rural NDP seats are in many cases long-term seats.
But to what expect are the NDP required to turn away from values that the majority of their supporters have? When it comes to economic matters, there's little divergence. It's the question of social matters that matters, no pun intended. Rural voters tend to be more socially conservative, and while 'economically progressive and socially conservative' is not an impossible position for a party to have, I'd like to think it's an one for the NDP to have.
I am bothered by the notion that any or some NDP MPs would vote against the gun registry. It's not that I don't understand the delicate position these rural MPs are in - I do - but ultimately I am a supporter of partisan politics, and the reason why parties exist is to establish voting blocs in parliament along lines that can be anticipated. That the NDP would be in favour of stricter gun regulation is one of the things we ought to be able to anticipate. Putting aside all the nonsense both the Liberals and the Conservatives are tossing about at the moment, I still feel that the party I support ought to be one that's unwavering on gun control.
I have faith they will be. Jack Layton should have put his foot down sooner, but I think he will. But will it be too late? Will the NDP brand have been tarnished too much?