OTTAWA — New Democrats are appealing to middle-class voters with children and aging parents in the next federal election as part of their strategy to increase party support in Ontario.
“I think the issue that is really affecting people in Ontario is the struggle in the middle class,” NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay) said Friday.
“This is going to be a very meat-and-potatoes kind of campaign for us.”
Canadians can expect to hear repeated references to the middle class from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and his candidates in the lead-up to the October election as the party — currently in third place well behind the Liberals and the Conservatives in the public opinion polls — looks to expand its universe of potential voters.
“After a decade of this Conservative government, middle-class families are having a tough time making ends meet,” Mulcair said in his opening remarks to the NDP caucus strategy session on Parliament Hill this week.
Party strategists say their research shows they could win over some soft voters in the “sandwich generation” — particularly those in two-income households in their late 30s to early 50s who are raising children who require daycare now and tuition down the road, caring for aging parents, and trying to pay down their debts.
There are people like this across Canada, but they are also heavily concentrated in Greater Toronto Area, where most political observers believe the 2015 election will be won or lost — especially given the creation of 11 new ridings there.
That is why the NDP is focusing its messaging on household debt, well-paying jobs, affordable child care, accessible post-secondary education, income security for seniors and the lack of family doctors.
These are the types of voters the NDP is appealing to with its three main policy proposals so far:
• A national daycare program charging parents no more than $15 a day;
• Returning the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 67 to 65;
• Introducing a $15 federal minimum wage.
It is also why Mulcair announced this week the NDP would get rid of the Conservative income-splitting scheme, but would keep the increases to the monthly Universal Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Expense Deduction.
Mulcair said he intends to keep these promises — and deliver a fully costed platform — despite a deep decline in oil prices reducing the amount of money in federal coffers.
“What we’ve said all along is that we have different priorities,” Mulcair said Friday.
GTA caucus chair Andrew Cash, who represents the Toronto riding of Davenport, said it also helps to have an increased number of New Democrat MPs in the city.
“We are the ones knocking on doors between elections really hearing what our constituents have to say and then trying to bring those issues here,” Cash said.
The NDP increased their number of Toronto seats from two to eight in the 2011 election, but then lost Trinity—Spadina to Liberal MP Adam Vaughan in a byelection last year.