MONTREAL — The strength of the Liberal tide in Atlantic Canada has surprised some New Democrats who’ve watched popular — even some long-standing — incumbents go down to defeat.
Megan Leslie, Robert Chisholm and Peter Stoffer, who has served in the Commons since 1997, were all swept away Monday night, along with Ryan Cleary, elected in 2011 as part of former leader Jack Layton’s orange wave.
The NDP’s defence critic, Jack Harris, was locked in a see-saw battle in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of St. John’s East.
The party entered the 78-day campaign riding high in the polls, but saw its lead evaporate halfway through, forcing it to spend the rest of the writ period trying to regain the upper hand.
Karl Belanger, a senior party strategist, says the momentum shifted for the NDP in mid-September when the Conservatives chose to use the issue of women wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies as a wedge issue.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was forced to oppose it, a position unpopular among voters in the party’s base of power in Quebec.
Belanger calls it a principled stand, not unlike the one the NDP took against the Conservative anti-terror bill, Bill C-51, which he says was initially accepted by the public before the details became widely understood.
The Canadian Press