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With courage, there is a way forward for the federal NDP

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Photo: Wayne Polk/Flickr

While the situation may look bleak for Jagmeet Singh's NDP, this political moment offers the party an opportunity to rebrand itself in light of Jeremy Corbyn's success with a bolder vision for the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

Corbyn's more progressive positioning has seen the party increase to 540,000 members (up from the 190,000 members under centrist Ed Miliband), fundraising spike to £55.8 million (up from £39.6 million under Miliband), and most significantly Labour winning 12.8 million votes in the 2017 election (compared to its 9.3 million votes in the 2015 election).

By contrast, the NDP is losing incumbent MPs, facing challenges with fundraising, and bracing for its number of sitting members to be cut in half next year.

At least nine incumbent NDP MPs will not be running in the October 2019 election. They include Fin Donnelly, Kennedy Stewart, Romeo Saganash, Hélène Laverdière, Tom Mulcair, David Christopherson, Irene Mathyssen, Linda Duncan, and Sheila Malcolmson.

NDP MP Murray Rankin has said he'll make an announcement in early January about his plans for the upcoming federal election.

Then there's the issue of fundraising.

Overall, in 2017, the party raised $4.86 million from 39,053 donors. While that's a significant amount of revenue, the NDP had revenues of at least $9 million a year from 2003 to 2015.

In January, February, and March of this year, the party raised $1,372,760 from 16,132 donors. Then in April, May and June, it raised $872,401 from 12,451 donors. That's actually up from the same period last year when it raised $825,985 from 12,448 donors.

Still, the party ended 2017 with $6.2 million in assets and $9.3 million in liabilities for a net negative balance of $3.1 million.

And there's the seat count now being projected for 2019.

The NDP won 44 seats with 3,470,350 votes and 19.71 per cent of the popular vote in the 2015 election. This was significantly down from the 103 seats they had won with 4,508,474 votes and 30.63 per cent of the popular vote in the 2011 election.

With the NDP now at 15.5 per cent in the polls, CBC pollster Éric Grenier is projecting that the party would win about 19 seats in 2019.

While it may have seemed strategic to former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to chart a centrist path in the 2015 election, it meant that Justin Trudeau was able to outflank the NDP on the left and win a majority government with the vote that was seeking real change.

With seemingly little left to lose on its current path, an emboldened NDP with visionary policies to address climate breakdown, the rise of right-wing populism and the evident failures of capitalism could very well appeal to millennial voters.

Millennials (those born since 1980) will form the largest-single voting bloc in the 2019 election and together with Generation Xers (those born between 1964 and 1979) will represent two-thirds of the electorate next year.

Trudeau has betrayed the trust they placed in him in 2015, notably with his push for tar sands pipelines that worsen climate breakdown, his about-face on electoral reform that ended the burgeoning prospect of proportional representation, and his disregard for Indigenous rights.

Will Singh's NDP have the imagination and courage needed to win their vote?

Timid and centrist didn't work for the NDP in 2015. Let's hope that they don't repeat that mistake and see a further collapse of their vote in 2019.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Wayne Polk/Flickr

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