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Changing the NDP's new role into a governing mandate

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In as many words, today's editorial in the Globe and Mail suggests that only Canada's Conservative and Liberal parties are entitled to govern our country. Which is an interesting look into the minds of Canada's eastern establishment. It reminds the rest of us of many things.

First, this text reminds us that Canada's establishment doesn't like change very much.

Second, this text reminds us that Canada's establishment is sometimes untroubled by the verdicts or views of voters. Another example, as we've seen in Canada's recent political history, of how power creates powerful feelings of entitlement. Elites and rentiers always believe that their privileges are their property. But all around the world, throughout history and in many countries, citizens have taught their betters that -- ultimately, one way or another -- it is citizens who will be the judge of who is fit for office, and who will win office.

The Liberal Party will start back on the road to recovery when it has internalized this. Other elements of Canada's elite perhaps never will (which is a good thing -- we don't want them to get too smart).

Third, this text reminds us of the truth of the old mantra: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Canada's New Democrats have vaulted over Parliament's separatists and over its reserve conservative party to capture the Official Opposition bench.

So our friends (the folks used to running things) are going to stop ignoring us. They will shortly stop laughing. And then they're going to fight.

New Democrats should welcome this -- it is how Canada's entitled are going to inadvertently communicate to the people of Canada that the NDP is close to victory. We won't be hearing about "don't waste your vote" any more. Now it's going to be "don't make a terrible mistake."

Which gets us to the core of the business that lies before the New Democrats over the next four years: That is to earn the new role Canadians have given the party and to build on it -- into a governing mandate -- whether the voices of the past like it or not.

That requires the New Democrats to strike some careful balances. To be idealistic, but practical and reasonable in implementation. To be agents of change, but also of prudence and responsibility.

To carefully think through the issues that would come from winning national office, and to prove to voters that this has been done -- without losing the party's political edge, its connection with citizens, or its sunny optimism and its commitment to change. Those features are what Canadians like about their new official Opposition.

The New Democrats have done this successfully in a growing number of provinces. They can do so at the federal level. By not stopping (as someone has been saying) until the job is done.

This article was first published in the Globe and Mail.

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