One axiom that I’ve always lived by in politics is that campaigns almost never go totally form. It never fails that some surprises and curveballs come out, things that we didn’t expect to see that while not making a huge impact, hurt none the less. These things can sting and can say a fair bit about how some out there are viewing the lay of the land. Tonight we got one of those curveballs, with some relatively big news breaking in Nova Scotia:
It’s not big news in of itself that someone decides to jump to Federal politics in a different party, that happens often enough that it isn’t fatal. But this hurts for the Federal New Democrats for a few big reasons, let alone the Nova Scotia New Democrats. For starters, Lenore Zann is not an anonymous backbencher; she has been elected for a decade as a New Democrat, surviving after the Dexter government was defeated in 2013. On top of that, she ran for the leadership of the Nova Scotia NDP, losing to current leader Gary Burrill. That makes her a decent get for the Trudeau Liberals.
But for me the worst part of all of this comes from the comments she made about her reasons for turning to the Red Team. First off, she actively considered running for Jagmeet Singh and decided to jump to the Liberals. That is not a decision taken lighten because by doing so, she is effectively torpedoing her provincial political career as it now stands. She’s going to sit as an independent for now in the Nova Scotia Legislature, but in making this decision, she’s blown up the bridge on a decent 10-year political affiliation, along with all the friendships and relationships that come with it. So if she doesn’t win in the Fall, she will have lost more than that campaign.
She also pointed to some very specific things in her reasoning that really caught my eye. She told the Truro News that she is going to be pushing hard for a National Pharmacare program and universal basic income. Given that we haven’t seen the release of the Hoskin Report yet on the Pharmacare topic and I’ve never heard the Trudeau government talk about UBI, that left me with some obvious questions. Does she know something that’s coming down the pipe that we don’t know about yet? Are there going to be some big policy announcements that would properly fit those descriptions in a way that made the NDP offer feeling unpalatable? I guess that we’ll see.
Another thing that she went on to talk about is the piece that probably made this jump by this MLA so surprising to me, something that should have the Orange Team sweating bullets. She made it clear that her biggest fear was seeing Andrew Scheer becoming Prime Minister. Despite everything that the Liberals have done to themselves over the past six months, we are seeing a long elected MLA from another party with a lot to lose deciding that the biggest thing that matters is stopping Andrew Scheer. And folks you need to realize, Lenore Zann is not a centrist New Democrat. Look at the list of things that she’s talking about, she is more on the left of the NDP. That would make her probably the furthest left Liberal in the House of Commons if she were successful in the Fall. The idea that after the SNC/PMO scandal, the expulsions of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, and all the broken promises to the left that she still made this decision is very striking.
Honestly, I believe it says far more about the state of the NDP than it does about an attraction to the Liberals. You’ll notice how the Greens weren’t even in that entire conversation, so this doesn’t seem to me like a simple matter of being unable with her now old party. This strikes me more as someone who is going to the place where she believes that she has the best chance to stop the election of a Scheer Conservative government. In that riding too, this will be a straight up Liberal-Conservative fight, with former Harper era MP Scott Armstrong running to try to get the seat back. This was a riding that was probably one of the most likely to fall back into the Blue column, but with this candidate, the Liberals now have a fighting chance to hold it. The Liberals are hoping that more and more voters are feeling like Ms. Zann and that is their best path to remaining in government. So tonight’s news will put some wind in the sails of the Red Team, while the Orange Team is left to pick themselves up after another punch to the gut, hoping there aren’t any more to come.