John Ibbitson, always an astute observer of Canadian politics, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is vulnerable. The idol of progressives around the world has been tripped up at home through a series of missteps that have combined to forge a new narrative: Out-of-touch Liberal elites vacation on exotic islands and hide their millions in offshore accounts while hiking taxes. The narrative isn’t true or fair, but politics is a rough business.“
That’s all well and good, he say, but he wonders if Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives can appeal to what he calls the “veto voters” ~ “the millions of middle-class voters in suburban ridings outside Toronto and Vancouver.” He asks if Mr Scheer “can overcome the demons within his own political base” in order to win back those middle class suburbanites who votes lifted Prime Minister Harper to a majority government in 2011?
Who are the “veto voters,” and who are the “demons” in the CPC’s base?
John Ibbitson explains, quoting Professor Richard Johnston, who teaches political science at University of British Columbia, that ““If there’s a veto power in the game right now, it’s the suburbs of the two big, diverse urban areas” west of the Ottawa River.” That harks back of course to Professor Michael Bliss’ Old Canada / New Canada argument which I have cited again and again. “Winning power, he [Professor Johnston] maintains, means winning over those suburban anglophone voters. For the Conservatives, the challenge is formidable, but not insurmountable.“
OK, that is ground that I have plowed many times, most recently about a month ago. And picking up on that theme, Mr Ibbitson says that “in many suburban ridings with large immigrant populations, the Tories actually held their vote, losing to the Liberals only because the NDP vote collapsed. With Brampton-based Jagmeet Singh as the new NDP Leader, the progressive vote may once again split, offering the Conservatives an opportunity to come up the middle.” Bingo!
But … there’s always a but, isn’t there?
“The party,” John Ibbitson says, “also has an image problem among millennials, who will form the largest voting cohort in the next election. Even though millennials typically don’t vote at levels comparable to boomers, there are so many of them that they increasingly dominate the political landscape … [but] … While the Conservatives earned the support of about three millennials in 10 in the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2011, according to a study by the polling firm Abacus, only two in 10 supported them in 2015 … [and] … To win at least some of those millennial voters back, Mr. Scheer needs to be emphatic in support of issues that matter to them, such as fighting climate change. The Tories got off to a good start on that front in June by supporting a Liberal motion affirming Canada’s commitment to the Paris accord … [and, further] … Then there is protecting sexual minorities and a woman’s right to an abortion, two other core millennial values. Mr. Scheer has already said he would take no action as prime minister to limit abortion rights. It will be interesting to see how he responds when Mr. Trudeau offers a formal apology, expected within a few weeks, for past discrimination against sexual minorities.” That is also ground I have covered many times in the past two years.
The Conservatives need to hold the base of 90± seats and add 90± more, and almost all of those 90 seats are in suburban and urban ridings, and all but 10± to 20± must be found in “New Canada” ~ West of the Ottawa River.
To win those 90± seats the CPC must cast off the angry, old, white men image and appeal to young, female, suburban, hard working people … many of whom already hold some conservative views and who, now, have the “veto” over Justin Trudeau’s plans and programmes.
“While issues such as climate change and sexual minority rights matter a lot to the punditocracy,” John Ibbitson opines, “for millennials, immigrants and all suburban, middle-class voters outside Toronto and Vancouver, the defining issues centre on the economy, taxes, crime and infrastructure – especially making the commute into work less of an aggravation … [and, he asks] … Can Andrew Scheer convince these veto voters that what matters to them matters to him?” He notes in closing that “Justin Trudeau convinced them in 2015, but now they’re not so sure. If Mr. Scheer can win them over, he can become prime minister. But it’s a long way to there from here.“
I have offered a prescription for a fiscally prudent, socially moderate platform that, I believe, can, if the NDP can regain some of it’s voter appeal, hold 90± of the seats it holds now and take 90± more suburban and urban ridings and form a Conservative majority government. John Ibbitson is right: we, Conservatives, must appeal to the “veto voters” ~ especially those in the suburbs in “New Canada” and while we don’t need to actually exorcise the “demons” in our party we do need to sideline them and keep their occasional eruptions out of the public mind.