MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — The Oct. 19 vote is still a three-way race no matter what polls suggest, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair insisted Monday.
At the opening of a two-province blitz of campaign offices on Thanksgiving Day, Mulcair turned a blind eye to many published opinion polls over the past couple of weeks that suggest his party is on a downward slide.
Mulcair deflected several questions Monday about the apparent decline of NDP support, insisting he doesn't pay any attention to polls.
And he continued to declare that the NDP is in a better position to defeat Stephen Harper's Conservatives than the Liberals, who are running first or a close second in the polls.
"The NDP only needs 35 more seats to defeat Stephen Harper, the Liberals need at least 100 more to do that," Mulcair said following an event at an NDP campaign office in Maple Ridge, B.C.
There is a sense of frustration among party strategists that their message — the NDP is the shortest path to defeating the Conservatives — is not getting through, particularly with the national media.
The argument makes the broad assumption that the NDP will hold the historic number of seats it won in 2011 — an assumption in which party strategists continue to profess confidence despite the recent slide in the polls and a softening of support in the NDP's Quebec base.
Mulcair was to be in both British Columbia and Saskatchewan on Monday, provinces where his party hopes to make gains.
The NDP sees B.C. as an important battleground, where they have tried to frame the election as a fight between New Democrats and the Conservatives.
"Only the NDP can beat the Conservatives here in British Columbia," Mulcair said.
New Democrats are expecting tight three-way fights in Vancouver.
But they believe they can pick up three seats on Vancouver Island and are confident of adding two others on the mainland, including the newly created riding of Pitt Meadows Maple Ridge, a scenic, largely blue collar community east of high-priced Vancouver.
In fact part of the NDP strategy seems to hinge on making gains in areas where the economy is under strain or has been hammered by globalized trade.
Mulcair pointed out his campaign swung last week through a vast swath of southwestern Ontario, once the manufacturing heartland of the country.
"Six towns in six Conservative ridings," he said. "You knew, and I knew in those ridings the NDP was going to be winning, and everything that's been published since then is proving that. So, when we went from Brantford to Waterloo to Stratford to London to Sarnia to Essex, we knew that the only party that was going to be defeating the Conservatives in those blue ridings was the NDP."
It's not the first time party has made the same bet. The NDP concentrated on those same economic hard-luck regions in previous campaigns, only to come up short.
A different dynamic is at play in this campaign with the Conservatives signing the multi-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the NDP has seized upon as a potential life line for the campaign.
Throughout his campaign stops over the holiday weekend, Mulcair hammered the "secret" agreement, which he says Conservative Leader Stephen Harper tripped over himself to achieve before the election.
"Everybody saw him coming. He got played for a chump," he said.
The NDP repeated their demand Monday for the government to release the full text of the agreement so the public can decide for itself whether it's a good deal.
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