NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair launched a new campaign strategy to win over the battleground Greater Toronto Area, which included rallying supporters at an event in downtown Toronto on Tuesday night and builds on the momentum the party now has in Quebec and British Columbia.
The strategy also focuses on social media and features a video that shows a number of diverse GTA residents, some wearing NDP orange, talking about why they support the party on issues such as transit and child care. One NDP supporter also declares this a historic election for the party, and says she wants to be a part of that. With the long federal election campaign nearly half over, opinion polls have the party leading as it attempts to form its first national government.
A new Nanos poll, released by The Globe and Mail on Monday, shows the NDP ahead with 32.7-per-cent support nationally (up 2.3 percentage points from a week ago). The Liberals are at 30.8 per cent (up 0.6 percentage points) and support for the Conservatives has dropped by 2.3 percentage points to 26.2 per cent.
Mr. Mulcair has been campaigning in the GTA since the election was called at the beginning of August for Oct. 19. With summer unofficially over, he is redoubling his focus on the region.
The Nanos poll shows the Liberals ahead in Ontario and the NDP in third place.
Mr. Mulcair often calls Toronto "the most important city in Canada," a senior campaign official says, but the downtown rally is a "larger effort right across the country" to unite people behind the NDP Leader to try to defeat Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
There are 25 seats in the city of Toronto in 2015; In 2011, when there were 23 ridings, the NDP won eight (Olivia Chow resigned her seat to run in the 2014 Toronto mayoral race), the Conservatives nine and the Liberals six (Adam Vaughan won the seat vacated by Ms. Chow, bringing the Liberal total to the current seven).
The other GTA seats include ridings north of Toronto, such as Thornhill and Richmond Hill. The 11 ridings in Brampton and Mississauga are also included. NDP strategists believe that Jagmeet Singh's victory in that area in the 2014 provincial election was the breakthrough they needed. So, they are now trying to run strong campaigns in that region, according to a senior NDP campaign official.
However, the Tuesday evening rally featured speeches by two female candidates: Ruth Ellen Brosseau, an NDP MP and Quebec candidate, and Mira Oreck, a candidate in Vancouver. The two women talked about how voters in those two provinces are uniting behind Mr. Mulcair and getting on board for change.
Mike Layton, a Toronto city councillor and the son of late NDP leader Jack Layton, introduced Mr. Mulcair.
Meanwhile, the minute-long video, which is being released on Tuesday, tries to illustrate why Torontonians and people in the GTA should back the NDP.
"I'm supporting the NDP because I need $15-a-day child care in my neighbourhood," says one woman in the video. Another woman says she is supporting the party because she wants a "fair immigration system." One other says she wants to be part of making history by voting for a first-time NDP national government.
The video ends with the camera pulling up to the sky, showing leafy GTA neighbourhoods and Toronto skyscrapers and the CN Tower off in the distance as evocative music plays.
The NDP official says the last shot is about connecting every region of Toronto – and giving the message that "we're part of something big and historic."
The Conservatives were quick to weigh in on the NDP's plan, underlining how competitive the race for Toronto and the GTA is. Stephen Lecce, a Tory campaign spokesman, contacted The Globe and Mail with a statement that reached back to the Conservative strategy during the last weeks of the 2011 federal when they campaigned hard in the region against the NDP by playing up the NDP provincial government's controversial record under Bob Rae. That strategy worked as many of the ridings that appeared to be going NDP went to the Tories.