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NDP to keep name-- for now

The NDP convention this past weekend in Halifax ended without the name-change motion making it to the table.

The debate about the merit of a new name continues. Being new seems to be part of the problem.

Three riding associations had proposed dropping the “New” and renaming the party the “Democratic Party”.

A Harris-Decima survey found that of Canadians who had an opinion, 36 per cent thought the change was a bad idea, while 31 per cent thought it was a good idea.

Nevertheless, 78 per cent of respondents said a new name would not make them more or less likely to vote NDP.

At the University of Victoria, Political Science Professor Dennis Pilon agreed.

At most, he said, “it might galvanize forces within the party.”

“In the past sometimes a party would change their name in the same way they change their leader to get a new face,” Pilon added. “They feel the need to accomplish something.”

So what is in a name?

A poll from Angus Reid suggested that most political parties have negative connotations for Canadians. Fifty-five per cent of respondents found the Conservatives arrogant, while 43 per cent said the same of the Liberals. The NDP was seen as “out of touch” by 41 per cent of respondents, 39 per cent called the party inefficient and 37 per cent found it weak.

Yet despite an effort to put on a new (or not New) face, the reputation might be hard to shake.

“It’s a futile idea that if they can change their name that they can escape any negative impressions,” said Pilon.

Instead, Pilon suggested that the NDP focuses too much on capturing the votes towards the centre of the political spectrum.

“This has been the party strategy since the 1960s and we’ve seen a consistent drop in voters. They lose the voters on the other side,” said Pilon.

He added that when parties focus only on established voters, they start to resemble each other. The lack of alternatives causes the number of non-voters to grow.

In the last federal election, 58 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls. This is the lowest turnout Elections Canada has ever recorded. In the 1980s voter percentages were in the mid 70s.

“What we want in a democracy is for the voters to have real choices,” Pilon said. “The crisis of Canadian democracy is not that the NDP is not mainstream enough, the problem is all these missing voters.”

Melanie Kuxdorf reports for The Tyee

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