Take a good look at these two images:
Now look at these two:
First the Liberals turned both orange (NDP) and blue (Conservative) provinces to Liberal red.
We, Conservatives, only “lost” 200,000 voters (down to 5,613,614 votes in 2015 (31.9% of the popular vote) from 5,832,401 (39.6%) in 2011) and my guess is that only a few tens of thousands of them actually switched to the Liberals … most who didn’t come out to vote Conservative just stayed at home ~ disenchanted with the campaign, perhaps.
The big story is that the Liberals went up by over 4 Million votes! They went from 2,783,175 votes (18.9%) to 6,943,276 (39.5%). That’s a really phenomenal turnaround, and the Liberal team deserves our admiration, congratulations and emulation (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) on running a masterful campaign.
How did they do that?
First: they convinced over 1,000,000 voters to switch from the NDP to the Liberals. Strategic voting works. And there’s a lesson for us, there: we prosper when there is a strong multi-party system and when we use the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system that rewards the party that rune the best campaign. We may want a referendum on any change to the electoral system as a matter of principle, but we really, really want to stay with FPTP as a matter of good, practical politics.
Second: they convinced almost 3,000,000 more Canadians to come out and vote and almost all of them voted Liberal. They reversed a long downwards trend … but, maybe, Stephen Harper helped by “growing” the vote in 2006 and 2011.
The Liberal campaign team deserves credit for doing that, too.
Let’s look, first of all, at the provinces the Liberals turned red with 50% plus of the popular vote: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI ~ all of Atlantic Canada, in other words, and they did it in no uncertain terms, to boot. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia went from being solidly Conservative to even more solidly Liberal. We may have done some of that to ourselves by allowing ourselves as being seen to be anti-Atlantic Canada, in attitudes, especially.
Next, we look at Quebec, which went from being solidly NDP to being Liberal, Ontario which went from being strongly Conservative to Liberal and BC which also went from being Conservative to Liberal.
Let’s begin with Quebec. I have said before that the Liberals need to rebuild their traditional Quebec base. We, Conservatives, “lost” Quebec in 1885 and, despite John Diefenbaker in 1958 and Brian Mulroney in 1984, we have never really regained anything more than a foothold there. But, demographic reality is on our side. It is possible to govern Canada without Quebec ~ not against Quebec, I hasten to point out, just with minimal representation there. I think we need to always aim to have five to ten seats in Quebec; we must never allow ourselves to be shut out, but we must recognize that anything more than a dozen seats is likely a fluke, not part of a trend. 10% of Quebec’s seats is a reasonable and achievable aim; in 2019 that means eight seats.
We should not allow the Liberals to sweep Atlantic Canada again in 2019. We need to have candidates and policy proposals that will entice some Atlantic Canadians back to the Conservative fold: in my opinion, something between five and 15 seats is achievable let’s say eight, as in Quebec, in 2019.
Now we divide Canada into what I call “Old Canada,” East of the Ottawa River, with 109 seats (out of 338 in 2019) and “New Canada,” everything West of the Ottawa River with 229 seats.* If we get only 16 of the 109 seats in “Old Canada” then we must get 154 of the 229 (67%) of the seats in “New Canada.”
Back about Christmas of last year I commented on an article by Tony Clement in which he discussed some policy foundations, asked us to look at some new, challenging policies and reminded us that “We must also not write off 100 or more electoral districts without a fight.”
The 100 or more seats to which is referring are the urban centre seats that we appear to concede, almost as a matter of right, to the Liberals and the NDP because, I guess, we don’t want to or, perhaps, cannot bring ourselves to address the issues that matter to many of the people living in those ridings.
When we have to win 154 of 229 seats we cannot, must not “write off” a single one!
What (and where) are those 100± seats?
They are, about:
- Fifteen to twenty in the urban centre of Greater Vancouver and it’s “inner suburbs;”
- Another ten split between urban Calgary and Edmonton;
- Ten more in Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg;
- More than 25 in Central Toronto and its “inner suburbs;”
- Another ten in other Ontario urban centres (e.g. Hamilton and Ottawa);
- Fifteen in urban Montreal and its “inner suburbs;”
- Ten more in smaller Eastern cities from Quebec City to Halifax.
I live in one of them, Ottawa Centre, which has a mix of people in well established city single home (often older, generally conservative folks) and young people and seniors in high rise condos, and I can guarantee that many of the young people here share some of our Conservative values ~ especially on the economy ~ but they either mistrust us on some social issues (like gay rights and abortion, which they take for granted), on the environment and on foreign policy … they do not believe that bombing is the first answer to every problem. We need to have a suite of policies that will appeal to young, often single, generally well educated, inexperienced and idealistic urban Canadians.
We need to assure them that we are a real, “big tent” party with room for a wide range of opinion ~ yes, there are Conservatives who, for example, oppose abortion for their own, moral, reasons, but there are also many of us who are supportive of very liberal social policies; yes there are Conservatives who want to “bomb ’em back into the stone age,” but there are also Conservatives who want to “give peace a chance.” The point is that we need to have a range of policies that have broad appeal and that convince young, urban Canadians that they can have a real, important voice in the Conservative Party of Canada and that they, not backroom wheeler-dealers, can make fiscally sound, socially progressive, responsible policies for Canada’s future.
One of the ways that Justin Trudeau both convinced younger, mainly urban Canadians to come out and vote and to vote Liberal was that he talked “with” them, not “at” them. It was, by and large, contrived, scripted, campaign rhetoric, but he was able to connect in ways that too many Conservatives fail to do … he’s young, hip, media-savvy, “connected” with issues that matter to many young people, even if some of them are superficial, and he’s “natural,” an extrovert who likes to engage with people, even when he’s out of his intellectual depth. It was, again, damned fine campaign tactics that we, Conservatives, need to study and emulate … we have young, smart, engaged leaders who can communicate … we need to turn them loose, to talk with young Canadians, to convince them that there is room for (almost) all of us and for (almost) all of our opinions in the Conservative Party.
Our task in 2019 is far less daunting than the one the Liberals faced in 2013, 14 and 15. We need to convince ‘only’ about 1,000,000 voters to switch from Liberal to Conservative. Some of them, actually many of them, have voted for us in the past: they are the working family suburbanites, often “ethnic” Canadians who decided, in 2015, that it was time for a change … we need to give them a reason to change back. Some of them are young, urban Canadians whose can be persuaded to either stay home or to split their votes between the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP. We also need to hope that the NDP gets its act together and takes back some of the 1,000,000 ‘strategic votes’ that the Liberals took from them in 2015. Finally, we need to retain the loyalty of most of the over 5,500,000 Canadians who voted for us in 2015.
If we can win about 15 to 20 seats in “Old Canada,” (Atlantic Canada and Quebec) and energize voters in “New Canada” (Ontario and the West) then we can earn 170+ seats in the next election and give Canada a sound, responsible government again.
* It’s not really my idea. I stole it from an article that noted Canadian historian Michel Bill wrote in 2000 for the Globe and Mail.