Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was asked how Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton’s death would affect her campaign. She denied it was a blow. But then what else is she going to say? Of course, it’s a blow. And a huge one.
The media generally ignore the NDP (and the Green Party) during election campaigns and in between too. Oh sure, they run little articles every time the NDP release a campaign promise or hold an event in the local media’s neighbourhood, but on the main pages, the media focus on the Tories and Grits. And then Layton did a remarkable thing – he started to attract Canadians to NDP events during the April Federal election. And then he leapfrogged the NDP over the Liberals to become the Official Opposition in Canada’s Parliament. The media had to take notice. But only of Layton. The Ontario NDP remain in the backwaters of media coverage.
Whatever bloggers and Twitterers may assert, most Canadians still learn about party campaigns through newspaper and television coverage and are still influenced by the mainstream media. Only local word of mouth is stronger, as we saw in Quebec. The Ontario NDP need that mainstream media attention.
Layton’s presence on Horwath’s campaign trail would’ve created that attention. After his stunning election feat, and battling cancer to boot, the media would’ve followed him around the province and so put the Ontario NDP on the front pages and in more column inches and larger type than usual. Without him, Horwath and the Ontario NDP are back in the very back seat.
Horwath needs to find a hook, or some way to create his presence, perhaps by having Olivia Chow join her on some stops on the campaign trail. However she does it, she needs to find a way to bring that media attention on to her trail.