The federal NDP campaign isn't finding much volunteer help from the party's provincial cousins in Alberta.
While Rachel Notley's successful campaign in Alberta this year borrowed key people from the federal NDP and elsewhere in the country, Alberta NDP aides haven't been available to return the favour. NDP staff in Alberta have been stretched, and are now preoccupied with work on the Premier's fall budget amid a recession and the oil price rout. "When you're, one, a new government, and two, dealing with some interesting economic times, they definitely aren't willing to release everyone and work on a skeleton crew," said Alex Bushell, a former NDP aide and government relations consultant at Environics Communications in Ottawa.
Brian Topp, chief of staff to Ms. Notley, is not on the federal NDP campaign as he was for the late Jack Layton's historic result in 2011, but the party has brought in staff from various parts of the country to help out, including a heavyweight campaigner from Manitoba.
Michael Balagus, a senior NDP strategist, campaigner and adviser under Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and previously for Gary Doer, has been working in Ottawa for some time as a central member of the NDP's national campaign, said people familiar with the team. Respected within the party for his experience and political savvy, Mr. Balagus was also tapped last year to help boost the fortunes of the Ontario NDP and serve as chief of staff to Leader Andrea Horwath.
The party has reassembled many familiar faces as the national campaign team hopes the provincial victory in Alberta could translate into more seats in the Conservative heartland, a province where there is only one NDP incumbent by way of Linda Duncan in Edmonton.
The federal NDP ramped up its Alberta nominations in August, going from just 11 nominations to finalizing candidates for all 34 ridings in the province, according to data compiled by online database Pundits' Guide.
Ms. Duncan, an NDP incumbent, said the nominations took some time because the party had to hold contests to nominate a large number of people interested in running, including First Nations candidates.
The Alberta election result has broadened the party's grassroots organization, she said. "We have a powerhouse going on here, on the ground," Ms. Duncan said.
The federal NDP was polling at 24.8 per cent support in the Prairies, according to Sept. 9 survey data by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail. The Conservatives led the region with 47 per cent support and the Liberals trailed with 22.3 per cent.
Michael Gardiner, a communications strategist and expert in online campaigns and social media who was serving as provincial director of the B.C. NDP, is among campaign staff who joined the team in Ottawa, sources said. Mr. Gardiner is playing a senior role in the campaign's rapid response unit.
Thomas Linner, a senior official with the Manitoba Finance Department under Premier Greg Selinger, is also in Ottawa to work on the national campaign, said people familiar with the team.
The NDP is again using StratCom for its polling, the people said, a firm that has done strategic polling for former NDP legislator and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, as well as for unions and environmental and human rights NGOs.
The party is doing key creative work in-house, including advertising, the people said, with Michael Roy, former communications director for the B.C. NDP, heading up the campaign's digital division. One person said the party recognized early on that online videos would play a big role. The NDP is using digital and social media tactics to target ridings in the Greater Toronto Area.
Brad Lavigne, who worked on Mr. Layton's 2011 campaign, is serving in a top role on messaging, while Anne McGrath, previously the chief of staff to Mr. Layton, has also returned as campaign director. Both Mr. Lavigne and Ms. McGrath rejoined the party over the past couple of years after working for some time as political consultants at Hill+Knowlton Strategies and ENsight, respectively.
Senior advisers Alain Gaul, Karl Bélanger and George Smith are on tour with Leader Thomas Mulcair, as well as the party's "wagonmaster" in charge of media, Laura Ziemba. As in 2011, Rick Devereux is working on tour.
People familiar with the team said the New Democrats are now planning to ramp up the campaign after holding back some new ads and announcements.
Mr. Mulcair's senior communications aide, Shawn Dearn, made headlines this month when some two-year-old Twitter messages surfaced, showing anti-Roman Catholic comments. Mr. Dearn, after apologizing, remained on the campaign.
"He felt very bad about it and I'm more than willing to move on from that," Mr. Mulcair told reporters.