What If

The NDP: What if they Form the Government?

With the three major parties still locked in a virtual tie in the polls, it is too soon to predict who may form the government on October 19.  Much is being made, however, of the possibility of an NDP government and what it could mean for regulated industries.

Having been far from power in Ottawa in the past, the NDP have sometimes taken policy positions that are more aligned with “Opposition” positions designed to appeal to their voter base but are not necessarily realistic in application.  Of course, neither Tom Mulcair nor any Prime Minister are bound by past positions or party resolutions, but there will inevitably be expectations from the party’s caucus and membership calling for action. Balancing these expectations will be key. The likelihood is that Mulcair will have earned credit with the party and in turn some latitude to move further to the political centre, at least in the short term.

Reviewing NDP policy resolutions and past Private Member Bills you will find a number of initiatives that could have significant consequence for business. To name a few, these policies cover issues like new consumer product labelling initiatives, a prohibition on advertising of “junk food” to children, new controls on agricultural seed technology, and mandates on ethical sourcing throughout the supply chain. If these positions indicate how the NDP will chart its priorities, we should expect a significant shift in the public debate around many controversial policy issues and industry practices, especially as it relates to consumers.

“An NDP government will ban advertising of food to children right across Canada.”
New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair November 26, 2014 – Championing Public Health Nutrition Conference

With that said, since the Federal Election unfolded, it appears the NDP is trying to shift public perceptions on the Party’s policy positions. NDP spokespeople have argued their past policy resolutions only speak to the Party’s “value systems”, not what an NDP government would necessarily do. For instance, the party rank has called for mandatory labelling of genetically-modified foods in Canada and Tom Mulcair recently had a photo opportunity with an anti-GM activist; but, as the possibility of taking power appears greater, the party is hedging its comments and considering the consequences of mandatory labelling. Perhaps it is reasonable to argue that the NDP see vulnerability from many of its past party positions and will be seeking a moderate approach if they form a government.

It is far too early to tell how the electoral chips will fall, but what is certain is that the NDP will have to make a careful evaluation of the potential impact of some of its policies and its approach to regulatory controls were they to assume power. Whether or not they from a government or strengthen their position in opposition, if the NDP’s power in Ottawa increases it is reasonable to expect an uptick in debates about GMOs, environmental assessments, “junk food” advertising, pesticide use and other such policy issues.

Sample of NDP Private Member Bills
41st Parliament, (2011-06-02 – 2015-08-02)