"We need to continue to make gains in Ontario and should make gains in Ontario. That ultimately will be determined by our relationship with the voters of Ontario, not fundamentally by whether we are pleasing the premier or a mayor in some city. I think ultimately, it's the people we have to connect with."
"I think our policies should win us more support in Toronto the same way that it's winning us more support in similar demographics in every other part of the country."
First, a quick point on the last sentence. There is no evidence whatsoever to support Harper's contention that the Conservatives are winning "more support in similar demographics in every other part of the country". Outside of Alberta, there is no sense that the Conservatives are connecting with the urban voter, Toronto isn't the exception, more part of the trend. If you take Harper at his word, how then does he explain stagnant polling, has the connection with the urban "demographic" been offset by a lose of support in rural areas? I don't think so.
Harper thinks the Conservatives should make further gains in Ontario. As I've argued before, Harper's Ontario strategy to date has been a strategic head scratcher. Harper can discount a mayor or a premier or a urban candidates concerns, but in the fights we've witnessed, they represent their constituents in a more direct way than the government. Miller arguing for more money for his city brings support, moreso than he may get in an election. McGuinty arguing for proper representation resonates with Ontarians, in a way that speaks to basic self-interest. Calling people "whiny", calling people "small", when they are essentially standing up for the locals is a losing stance for the federal government.
The reason why the Conservatives aren't making gains in Ontario is simple. A complete lack of sensitivity, a dismissive tone, a pre-occupation with other electoral regions and a lack of urgency. The government's reaction to the manufacturing problems in Ontario have been nothing short of passive indifference. Flaherty has the arrogance to tell manufacturers, on the verge of bankruptcy, that a high dollar represents a terrific opportunity to re-tool, update equipment imported from the Americans. Companies are losing their shirts, and Flaherty's solution, invest more and take bigger loses in the near term, that you can't afford. I've had some first hand feedback to this proposition, and to say it wasn't well received is understating the point. The government simply dropped the ball on the manufacturing sector, and as a result, come election time, others can capitalize on the timid response.
It's funny to hear Harper, arguing that the Conservatives will make gains in Ontario. From everything I have seen, the government minister's seem more content to antagonize and alienate, than build a better foundation.