A number of things caught my eyes over the past couple of days. They are all related to this …
Why are the knives out for Erin O’Toole?
Well, the Globe and Mail‘s editorial board opines that it’s because he made the right strategic choices. Specifically, the editorialists write, “he aimed at the right target. The Conservative Party has to appeal to voters in urban and suburban Canada, and win many ridings there, if it ever wants to form government again. It’s hard to see how that can happen without a shift to the centre on a number of issues. If the Conservatives become the official party of the hinterlands, they’re doomed.“
Now that seems to have annoyed a whole hockey sock full of Conservatives who look at this map …
… and then say to themselves “Hey, look, half the country is blue, and more people voted for the Conservative party than did for the Liberals.” The problem with that is that it its illogical because it is not based on political reality. This map …
… shows political reality. Geography is irrelevant. It’s interesting, but meaningless, that there are almost nothing but Conservatives natives from just East of Greater Vancouver all the way to Winnipeg. The problem is that there are fewer seats between the interior of BC, all of Alberta and Saskatchewan and most of Manitoba (60± to be generous) than there are in the Greater Toronto and Vancouver Areas (75±). Add in Ottawa and the Halifax region and the illogic of those who want the Conservatives to remain a Western and rural party is obvious.
More than ½ of all Canadians live in one tiny slice of the country:
It must not be surprising or disturbing that they also get to elect more than half the MPs. Add in Greater Vancouver and Montreal and Halifax and … well, you must conclude that any party that wishes to govern Canada must win the hearts and minds of the people who live in our fast growing big cities.
That doesn’t mean that the good people who live on farms and in small towns and so on don’t matter … but it does mean that they cannot and will not set the national agenda. The question then becomes can they and should they set the Conservative Party’s agenda?
Let’s look at the results from last week. The Conservative party got 33% of the national vote, just a bit more than the Liberals Party eared. A lot of that vote was concentrated in about half the ridings the Conservatives won ~ all that blue between Greater Vancouver and urban Winnipeg. Is that the Conservative “base?”
The Conservatives also won 31% of the vote in Toronto. That’s right, in the heart of urban Canada nearly one in every three voters chose a CPC candidate. That wasn’t quite enough but in 20+ urban and suburban ridings across the country the Conservatives only trailed the Liberals by 2,500± votes. In other words, if the Conservatives had earned, as Erin O’Toole aimed to do, say 32% of the vote in Greater Toronto then the national results might have been LPC: 137± and CPC 139±.
Erin O’Toole tried to pull the Conservative Party of Canada back to the political centre,. where Stephen Harper left it. He failed. But he didn’t fail by much. As someone wiser than I has said, Ontario voters like to kick the tires before they buy. A goodly proportion (31% of them in Toronto and substantially more in some suburbs) liked what they saw but stuck with the devil they know. If we go to the polls again in 2023 they may, likely will, like it better. A majority government in a five party system like Canada;’s can be had with something under 40% of the popular vote. But no partycan govern if it does not earn substantial (35%) support in Greater Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, Winnipeg and throughout Southern Ontario, including, especially the Greater Toronto Area.
Seats in Québec are nice to have but as Stephen Harper proved the Conservative party can won and govern, well, without very much support in la belle province. Seats in Atlantic Canada are also nice to have, but with the next redistribution of seats Atlantic Canada’s share of the house will drop, again, while Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver (and Calgary, too) will gain. IF the Conservatives want to lead Canada in the right direction they must earn the votes of the people in those cities and suburbs surrounding them … as Erin O’Toole tried to do.
Should Erin O’Toole’s leadership be reviewed? Yes, of course … if for no other reason than that the CPC’s constitution calls for it. Should his leadership be challenged. Yes, again … if someone is convinced that they can formulate and execute, successfully, a winning national campaign.
I think Conservative party members need to ask those who have their daggers already drawn: who is their choice for leader and how will (s)he win enough (many more) votes in the cities and, above all, in the suburbs to form a majority government?
Erin O’Toole tried to do the right thing. He didn’t succeed. But his plan was the only sensible way that the Conservative Party can win power … the Western, rural and small town “base” is too small. A party which aims to satisfy only that base is only ever going to be a protest movement.
Assuming, as I do, that the Conservative Party of Canada aims to provide Canadians with a good, responsible, government that really does want to build a better country for all Canadians then when its is time to review Erin O’Toole’s leadership that review must begin by acknowledging that he did the the right thing. The only question, then, is: is there someone who can do it ~ extend the party’s base to suburban Canada ~ better?