Traditionally, the Canadian political environment has been predicated on a left-right ideological split, with the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) on the left and iterations of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) on the right (Cochrane, 2010). However, this changed after the 2011 General Election when the NDP won enough seats in Parliament (102, an increase of 65 seats from the last election) to form the Official Opposition. The LPC lost a drastic number of seats, from 77 seats to 34 seats (-43), reducing them to third party status in the House of Commons for the first time in history.
This paper explores how this phenomenon was manifested in the media by analyzing unsigned editorials in two national English language Canadian newspapers, The Globe and Mail and The National Post, from April 20, 2011 to May 2, 2011. This time period was chosen to reflect the period between expressed public support for the NDP rose above support for the LPC and the end of the campaign on election day. To analyze this phenomenon, this paper uses grounded theory as the methodological framework.
Grounded theory is a qualitative and explorative form of research that differs from other forms of qualitative research because the data collection phase and analysis phases of the project are conducted concurrently (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1987; Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Banks, et al., 2000; Schreiber, 2001; Lindlof & Taylor, 2002; Gibbs, 2007; Charmaz, 2000). This approach provides a flexible framework to explore new phenomena, free of preconceived ideas about findings (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). A series of coding phases - open coding, axial coding, notional coding - are used to identify patterns within the textual data and the observed patterns are used to form theories to explain the phenomenon.
The analysis in this paper suggests that prior to the General Election outcome, the NDP emerged as a serious political contender to the CPC. This theory emerges from two patterns observed in the data centred around political discourse and campaign communications. The first observed pattern is how the editorials described each partyʼs leader using a narrative of leadership and capability. The CPC and NDP leaders, whose parties gained the most in the General Election, were described under the narrative of leadership and reflected this narrative in their campaign communications. The second observed pattern was the way certain issues were highlighted in the editorials as salient election issues. These issues - Quebec, healthcare, and the economy - were more closely related to the campaign communications from the NDP and the CPC than they were to the LPC.