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NDP Leader Jack Layton

All of a sudden the federal election campaign is a horserace, just not the horserace we anticipated when it began.

Can you imagine an election result that shows the Conservatives still in a minority, but NDP Leader Jack Layton as the leader of the Opposition with his party holding 83 seats in Parliament? A fresh projection by poll-analyst and frequent Globe and Mail contributor Eric Grenier shows that this is possible.

But for this to be more than just a democratic pipedream, one thing above all must happen: the NDP must ensure that its supporters -- every single one of them -- gets out and votes, and votes NDP, on election day.

I don't have to tell you what such an electoral outcome could mean -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minions will do that for me, in the most negative, vote-suppressing, dishonest way imaginable. Conservative candidates, moreover, like their Republican counterparts south of the Medicine Line, can be expected to resort to tactics designed to deny the right to vote to people likely to support the NDP.

I think it is fair to say that enraged Tory orcs in Metro Toronto who are slashing tires and vandalizing cars parked by houses with Liberal signs on their lawns will switch their attention soon to NDP households. If you're an NDP supporter in Toronto, leave your sign up, but think about locking your car in the garage!

Above all, do not be disheartened by the Conservative and media pitch that your vote means nothing and you might as well stay home on May 2. In most parts of Canada, your vote has never meant more!

And don't believe the claim, which you will hear repeatedly in the next few days, that by voting NDP you'll split the vote and ensure a Conservative majority. Grenier's projection shows that this is not the case. Indeed, an analysis of voters' second choices by political scientists at British Columbia's Simon Fraser University suggests plenty of support among Conservative and Liberal supporters for the NDP. Some of them may break toward the NDP if the Orange Tide continues to rise!

Grenier's projection -- found on his useful blog threehundredeight.com -- is based on an analysis of "vote ceilings," that is, the best regional results for a party based on seat projections derived from the polls released during the previous week.

For such projections to translate into anything approaching reality, however, requires public opinion trends to continue (something all parties that would lose seats to the NDP can be expected to try by any means available to change) and for the NDP to get its vote out in its entirety.

And if that happened? Grenier writes: "With 29 per cent of the vote (32 per cent in British Columbia, 22 per cent in Alberta, 35 per cent in the Prairies, 24 per cent in Ontario, 36 per cent in Quebec, and 38 per cent in Atlantic Canada), the New Democrats would win 83 seats. Yes, that's right. They would win 11 in British Columbia, two in Alberta, eight in the Prairies, 19 in Ontario, 31 in Quebec, and 11 in Atlantic Canada. It would be about twice their historic best."

Grenier also asks if NDP support has peaked too soon. Hard to say, but somehow it doesn't feel like it. Seeing their former parties about to be humiliated, voters might revert to traditional patterns. But it's as likely they could go with the future and join the Orange Wave.

As Grenier wrote in the Globe and Mail back in February, "an analysis of the last 30 years of federal elections indicates that in almost every case the pre-election voting intentions of Canadians shift significantly by the time the vote is held."

Presumably, no one expected them to shift this way, even those always-optimistic Alberta New Democrats who are so used to seeing their hopes dashed in provincial election after provincial election. (Twenty-two per cent!)

But when you think about it, it makes sense. No party advocates better policies for Canadian families, young people and seniors. No party, in reality, has a better history of balancing budgets and living within taxpayers' means when in power in Canadian provinces. And no party is more committed to traditional Canadian values of freedom, diversity and optimism.

The thing is, it's up to us now. Your vote has never mattered more. Use it!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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