What Canada's Political Parties Need To Do In 2013

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CANADA POLITICS 2013
Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will need to spend the next year rebuilding some bridges that were burned in 2012. (CP) | CP

With 2012 almost behind them, the competitors on Parliament Hill now look to the challenges of 2013. What do the five parties need to do to make next year a success?

Greens

It was a good year for Elizabeth May and the Green Party. The challenge in 2013 will be to keep the momentum going. After the party’s unexpectedly strong performances in two byelections last month, the Greens will need to put up some good numbers again in any new byelections in the next 12 months. That the Greens demonstrated they can win some votes in b-elections will make that task easier for them at the doorstep, but the other parties will not take the Greens as lightly as they did this time around. If the party puts up poor performances in any 2013 byelections, their successes in 2012 will be dismissed as one-offs.

Bloc Québécois

Despite having four times as many MPs in the House of Commons, the Bloc was much quieter than May and the Greens in 2012. That will need to change in 2013 if the party is to have any hope of a comeback. The likely resignation of Denis Coderre in the riding of Bourassa will give the Bloc the chance to make some electoral noise in a byelection, but the riding is not a particularly strong one for the party. A good showing will give the Bloc a boost, but a poor performance will only add to their agony.

Liberals

With their leadership race coming to a close in April, 2013 will be an important year for the Liberal Party. They will need to take advantage of the contest to present good ideas to the public and avoid tearing each other down. The party already has a reputation for infighting, making any sort of public rift all the more damaging. Once chosen, the caucus will need to stand behind the new leader and prevent the New Democrats and Conservatives from defining him or her. If Justin Trudeau wins, as is expected, he will have to present himself as a credible alternative to Stephen Harper. Polls show Canadians like him but they are more divided on whether they think he is ready for the top job. He will have to quell those doubts.

New Democrats

The selection of the next Liberal leader will also be an important moment for the New Democrats. The party suffered when their interim leader, Nycole Turmel, was outshone in the House of Commons by Bob Rae, but the ship was righted when Thomas Mulcair took his place across from the prime minister. The New Democrats will need to maintain their position as the alternative to the Conservative government by preventing the Liberals from eating into their centre-left support. Mulcair will need to keep the focus on himself and not the new leader of the Liberals, a task that will be made all the more difficult if the camera-friendly Trudeau wins. If the NDP can survive the initial, and virtually inevitable, honeymoon the new Liberal leader will enjoy, they will have a good shot at remaining Canada’s top progressive option.

Conservatives

Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will need to spend the next year rebuilding some bridges that were burned in 2012. The failures on the F-35 file have put a dent in the party’s reputation as sound fiscal managers, and if the economy remains relatively flat in 2013 serious doubts may emerge about the government’s ability to balance the budget. The Conservatives still have some time before the next vote, but the longer they remain in power the more dirt will stick to them. Better, then, to regain some of those lost supporters in 2013 than in 2015, when it might be too late. A kinder, gentler and more conciliatory Conservative Party in 2013 could go a long way. But is it in the party’s DNA?

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

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