NDP enjoying the party, hoping it lasts

Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:43pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

YELLOWKNIFE, Northwest Territories (Reuters) - With every successive poll expanding the possibilities for Canada's once-overlooked New Democratic Party, the rallies get bigger and louder.

Federal NDP campaigns haven't always been a celebration, and the most the party could hope for in the past was the election of a small, but influential rump of parliamentarians.

But the party's surprising surge to second place ahead of the May 2 election has galvanized supporters and given party leader Jack Layton a still-uncertain shot at power.

"It's thrilling, a long time in coming," computer consultant Tom Hamilton, an NDP supporter for 30 years, said at a raucous rally in the Albertan capital Edmonton on Wednesday. "Hard to believe."

The left-leaning NDP has only one elected Member of Parliament in the strongly Conservative province of Alberta, and the Edmonton rally for Layton roughly doubled in size from the party's visit there to start the campaign, with about 700 supporters pouring into an old aircraft hanger.

The NDP says it will raise corporate taxes and bring in a cap-and-trade system to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But it will still balance the budget by 2014-15, a goal shared with the ruling Conservatives.

The jubilant mood extended onto Layton's charter plane, where the leader, his staff and reporters ate pizza at a 1980s-themed party with strobe lights and disco balls.

The party's surge could split the center-left vote and hand the ruling Conservatives a majority in the May 2 election. Or it could give the party a chance of forming its first government, in coalition with the faltering Liberals.   Continued...

<p>Canada's NDP leader Jack Layton speaks with Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger at a campaign rally in Winnipeg, Manitoba April 27, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade</p>