John Ibbitson has written an insightful opinion piece in the Globe and Mail that speaks to next year’s federal general election. He describes the voters who brought Doug Ford to office and notes that “the same voter who supported Doug Ford in June supported Justin Trudeau in 2015. Many suburban Ontario ridings now have Liberal MPs and Tory MPPs. So,” he asks “who speaks for that voter now?”
He describes the ‘Ford Nation’ voter as follows:
- “That voter is male; almost half of all men but only a third of all women voted Progressive Conservative, according to an exit poll conducted by the research and government relations firm One Persuasion;”
- “He is about 55, the age by which people were decidedly more likely to vote Conservative than NDP or Liberal in the last election;”
- “He probably doesn’t have a university degree, for voters with higher levels of education were more likely to support the NDP or Liberals than the Conservatives;”
- “According to the election results, he lives in a suburb. (Yes, the Conservatives took the rural ridings, but they also took most suburban ridings, where two-thirds of Ontarians live);”
- “He may well be a new Canadian, for many ridings with large numbers of immigrant voters went Conservative;”
- “According to other polling data, he doesn’t care about global warming or about recognizing the rights of Indigenous Canadians. He just doesn’t:”
- “He does care about the time and cost of his commute to work, how much his hydro has gone up and how much the government is spending on everyone except him;”
- “He doesn’t like all the sex talk in the curriculum. He wishes schools worried more about facts and less about values;”
- “He thinks governments should support the police and not worry so much about racial discrimination.”
“We may,” Mr Ibbitosn says “get an early sense” about who speaks for Ontario, “as the border-crossing issue unfolds. Do Ontario voters, especially immigrant voters, see these refugee claimants as economic migrants trying to game the system? Or do they see the Ford government’s impatience toward asylum-seekers as racist, anti-immigrant dog-whistling? … [and, he adds] … when the Trudeau government imposes a carbon tax on Ontario as punishment for the Ford government abandoning the fight against global warming, will Ontario voters see that a federal tax grab, or as a measured response to the environmental vandals at Queen’s Park?“
So, what does that mean for Andrew Scheer in 2019?
First, obviously, he must hold on to all those people who voted for Doug Ford … all of them. The ‘dog whistle,’ if blown softly enough, may work on them. But, second he must convince their wives that he and the Conservatives, not Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have both the suite of policies that reflect and the people who share her values. The ‘dog whistle‘ which might work on the working class husbands will not work on their wives and sweethearts.
Between now and October 2019 I believe that Mr Scheer must focus on Ontario … he and the CPC need to move 50+ seats out of the Liberal column and into the Conservative one. That’s a difficult but by no means impossible task. Ontario, with 121 seats, accounts for more than ⅓ of all the seats in the House of Commons and winning 85 or more of those seats is the key to a Conservative majority government in 2019. Doug Ford won 76 of 124 provincial seats with 40.6% of the popular vote … Andrew Scheer needs to do better. He will not do better by just keeping ‘Ford Nation.‘ He must keep that as a firm base and then expand a bit … he must hold on to rural Southern Ontario and the suburbs around Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton and so on and then make some inroads into the urban ridings, too. He must have a team that reflect young, moderate, urban and suburban voters’ values. The angry old white men haven’t got many choices ~ the Christian Heritage Party and the Libertarian Party and the Progressive Canadian Party might provide comfortable ‘homes’ for a few of them but they do not offer any meaniful hope of influencing policy ~ but the young, smart, well educated urban and suburban voters do .
This is how Ontario looked on election night in 2015:
The whole province (on the left) ~ the NDP and Liberals own Northern Ontario; then (upper right) Southern Ontario ~ a sea of Tory Blue surrounding the Greater Toronto area; and (lower right) the GTA which is almost solidly Liberal with a couple of NDP seats and one, lonely CPC seat. It is that lower right map that has to change next year. This is what haas to happen:
The CPC has to have a team and a suite of policies and promises ~ a platform ~ that will appeal to all those suburban voters, not just the working class men. It is going to be a challenge to keep ‘Ford Nation‘ AND expand the voter base to get to 85+ seats in 2019 … a challenge but one which MUST be met if we really want a Conservative majority nexyt year.