Ontario, B.C. drive surge in NDP ranks to record 128,000 members

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

With Martin Singh and Niki Ashton looking on, NDP contender Thomas Mulcair responds to a question during a leadership debate in Quebec City on Feb. 12, 2012. (CLEMENT ALLARD/Clement Allard/The Canadian Press)

The NDP has sold 44,000 new membership cards since the death of Jack Layton last summer, meaning 128,000 New Democrats will be eligible to participate in the election of his successor on March 24.

Put together, Ontario and British Columbia have 75,000 members, or almost 60 per cent of the overall number of voters. This helps explain why one of the top contenders for the party leadership, Thomas Mulcair, is campaigning in British Columbia this week. The province has almost 39,000 members, or 30 per cent of the total, which is much larger than its 13 per cent share of the population of Canada.

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Ontario comes in second with almost 37,000 members, or 29 per cent of the total, while the province has 38 per cent of the country’s population.

Quebec remains largely underrepresented with 12,000 members, or less than 10 per cent of the total. The number does not reflect Quebec’s 24 per cent share of the overall population, and it is also well below the province’s share of seats in the NDP caucus in Ottawa. The NDP swept Quebec on May 2 as the “Orange Wave,” largely fed by Mr. Layton’s personal popularity, helped the party win 59 of its 103 seats in the province.

McGill University professor Antonia Maioni said Quebec’s overrepresentation in the caucus, and its underrepresentation among rank-and-file, is “a recipe for a very difficult internal party situation.”

Still, the NDP applauded the fact that its membership jumped by 600 per cent in Quebec since last year. The province is disadvantaged by the fact that it does not have a provincial wing, while members of provincial New Democratic parties in the rest of the country are automatically eligible to vote in the federal race.

The party is especially pleased with the 50 per cent increase in its total membership since the fall, when it had 84,000 members.

“Canadians are really engaged and involved in our leadership race, as these historic numbers show,” New Democrat National Director Chantal Vallerand said in a news release. “Canadians are turning to New Democrats in record amounts in order to defeat Stephen Harper and elect a Prime Minister for all Canadians.”

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Final membership count

Alberta – 10,249

British Columbia – 38,735

Manitoba – 12,056

New Brunswick – 955

Newfoundland and Labrador – 1,030

Nova Scotia – 3,844

Territories – 924

Ontario – 36,760

Prince Edward Island – 268

Quebec – 12,266

Saskatchewan – 11,264

Total – 128,351

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