I want to drag together a couple of ideas about which I have been banging on for years:
Of course you can see where I’m going. The suburbs are home to many, many blue collar people. It’s a point that the Globe and Mail‘s John Ibbitson makes in a recent column. The left, he says, be it the NDP, who used to be the “voice” of “labour,” or the über-progressive Liberals, have lost interest in the working-class. Mr Ibbitson writes about the economic, gender, educational, age and geographic divisions that plague Canadian politics. The “secure” public sector employees seem, to some, to live off the increasingly insecure private sector workers: too many of whom are in the precariat. Men, he says, and the polling shows, favour Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives, women favour Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. The university educated (credentialed) segment of the population seems to assume that they, not the working-class, should decide the nation’s fate. Older people, over, say, 35, living West of the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor tend to favour the Conservatives. Younger people in that small area vote Liberal. Is this, then, surprising?
Is it a challenge or an opportunity for Erin O’Toole? is it both?
I think it’s both.
First, I think he needs to double down on his recent “outreach” to workers:
That’s a good message and I believe that tens of millions of Canadians both understand and agree with it. With that message he needs to try to persuade traditional NDP voters to do what the Reagan Democrats did in 1980 and ’84, what working class Americans did, again, in 2016, and what traditional Labour voters did in Britain in 2019 and jump right over the Liberals and become genuine blue-collar Conservatives. It’s no longer enough to hope that the fiscally responsible wing of the NDP will not vote strategically and elect Liberals in order to prevent a Tory victory; Erin O’Toole must, as Stephen Harper did just 10 years ago, convince blue-collar (and pink-collar), working-class Canadians that he and the Conservative Party of Canada are the best choice to secure their and their children’s futures. Those working-class voters live, disproportionately in the suburbs. There’s an obvious reason for that. Look in the free real-estate magazines in your local supermarket, look on-line …
… modest family homes in the suburbs are affordable. Three bedroom homes, the kind a growing family might need and want are expensive in the urban core. One and even two bedroom rental units, on the other hand, are more readily available in the city … it explains, in part, why people live where they do.
Those suburbs are the best hope that Canada has to avoid the fate that befell Ontario in the past decade when Kathleen Wynne attempted to appease too many progressive and green special interests and, in the process, nearly broke Ontario and, consequently, drove the blue-collar, working-class voters into the arms of Doug Ford’s Conservatives.
But, Mr O’Toole must be careful to not court the blue-collar Conservatives at the expense of others. Canada already has to many parties that pander to special interest groups. The Conservatives need to stand, above all, for the sovereign individual not for or against this group or that. The person best able to make the important choices for himself and for his family is the individual. (S)he needs to be left with the resources (her/his scarce tax dollars) needed to make life better for herself and her family. (S)he will understand that there are important roles for government and ways that (s)he can, through the government (s)he elects help support the entire community and the country but (s)he will, generally, by in favour of a government that does what it can do best and then gets out of the way and lets him make the best decisions for his family.
But it is equally important to get rid of the notion that the Conservatives are the party of angry, old, rural white men …
… the Conservative Party needs to show its new and authentic face …
… and let the Liberals and their bought and paid for stenographers in the CBC deal with it. The Conservative Party can and must speak to and for all Canadians. It must be the party of Main Street ~ Main Street in Richmond, BC, Main Street in Estevan, SK, Main Street in Newmarket, ON, Main Street in Sherbrooke, QC and so on ~ not of Bay Street, and it must be the party of ordinary, hard-working Canadian families who have come here from hundreds of countries and who worship in a hundred different ways and who believe in and oppose ten thousand different things. But they all share a few things in common: they want a better life, better than the “old country,” better than their parents had and better for their children and grandchildren and they believe that they, not the Laurentian Elites, know best how to make that better life.
In short, it is up to Erin O’Toole and his Conservative team to restore liberalism to Canada.