Saturday, December 23, 2006

A National Party

Gerard Kennedy's comments on the need for Liberals to compete everywhere are a welcome sign. There is little question that, at present, the Conservatives can claim to be more of a national party than the Liberals. Practicality aside, there is nothing worse than a defensive posture that essentially concedes defeat, without any real effort. Trying is more important than winning in the grand scheme:
The Liberals are planning a “308-seat strategy” for the next federal election in which they will contest all seats in the Commons, including those in regions they have previously written off, such as Alberta.

Former leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy, now leader St├ęphane Dion's adviser on election preparations, said the Liberals have opportunities to win seats in the West, although it will be hard if the election is called as soon as next spring.

“We need a little bit of time to make our case,” said Mr. Kennedy, a Manitoba-born politician who served as Ontario's education minister but was also well known in Alberta as the director of Edmonton's food bank.

“Some of the very quick scenarios might mitigate against that. But I am certainly treating it as very serious and I do see us with a 308-riding strategy. I think it's very important, the folks out there. They need to understand that we are serious about gaining back respect right across the country.”

Can the Liberals win seats in Alberta next election? Probably not, but if you take the longterm view, hardly the point. What is important is that the Liberal Party try to engage all Canadians, regardless of immediate vote potential. Kennedy was the only candidate that spoke of western Canada as more than a convenient afterthought, and his example should become standard Party procedure. The Liberal Party needs to be aggressive, much in the way Harper was towards Quebec.

Before you can elect MP's, you first have to win back credibility. Those that claim the Party shouldn't waste precious resources on lost causes adopt a narrow, short-sighted philosophy. The strategy shouldn't be soley about power, calculating different equations to simply win, but giving people a reason to take another look. If the Liberal Party approaches the electorate as Kennedy suggests, it lays a foundation which will pay divends down the road. A national party, that fights for votes everywhere, allocating resources based on regions and not electability.

12 comments:

bigcitylib said...

Probably not Alberta. But there are 3 Western Provinces that are not Alberta. They could definetely win in B.C., maybe in Manitoba, maybe in Sask.

UWHabs said...

I doubt we will win in Alberta, but we should at least lay the framework for future winnings. And then even if we don't win seats in Alberta, to be able to hold the cons under 50% of the vote there would be a big accomplishment.

WestmountLiberal said...

I would go even further to say that there are some very very good opps both in Sask and Manitoba.
Primarily in the cities but nonetheless.

Steve V said...

I'm curious to see where Kennedy ultimately runs. Alot of buzz in some Ontario ridings, but I think it would be a powerful statement if he ran in the west. Edmonton would be a bold choice.

Psychols said...

Edmonton would be a risky but bold choice for Kennedy. His credibility is high in that city and he would be competitive.

Calgary remains elusive for the Liberals in the short term but the city's growth invites a more eclectic political landscape.

Rural Alberta and smaller cities will probably remain conservative for a lot longer than the two major urban centre but Alberta can and will change.

Anonymous said...

Predictions:

1. Kennedy will run in Parkdale High Park.
2. Alberta will have a large EP budget this time, allowing the party to do more than reserve Billboard space in Edmonoton.

Steve V said...

"Edmonton would be a risky but bold choice for Kennedy. His credibility is high in that city and he would be competitive."

There would be a risk no question, but even riskier to the national cause, having a Dion government with no Alberta representation.

I have also heard talk of Kennedy possibly running in Liberal-safe Guelph, Ontario.

IslandLiberal said...

I really think Kennedy should run in Edmonton Centre, for a number of reasons.

1) Symbolically, sending the party leader's kingmaker/heir apparent to the heartland of the Conservative Party would be a powerful commitment.

2) The party has a good shot of winning the next election, and our short-term prospects in Alberta are otherwise rather weak. If anyone can do it, it's likely Kennedy.

3) Anne McLellan built up a reasonable base of support in Edmonton Centre over the last five elections; even when we lost in 2006, we got nearly 39% of the vote there; in 1993, McLellan won with only 35.7%, and during the government period she got numbers in the mid-40s. There's a good group of voters who used to vote Liberal who switched in the last election; we should aggressively fight for their votes again next time with an A-list candidate, rather than let our support there dwindle.

Outside of Alberta, I'd say there are several good prospects for the party. There are a number of seats in BC that I think we can definitely win with a good push; in Manitoba, there's Reg Alcock's seat for starters, and, if the campaign goes well, others in Winnipeg that we held in 1988-2004 period. If David Orchard decides to run in Saskatchewan, he'll make a real fight of it.

In the big picture in the West, we're doing a lot better today then we were 25 years ago. Compare the 1980 election results, when we won a majority government, to the 2006 election results:

Seats in Manitoba: 2/3 (within 100 votes of 4)
Seats in Saskatchewan: 0/2
Seats in Alberta: 0/0 (okay, still some work to do there)
Seats in BC: 0/9 (and several more within striking distance)

Steve V said...

islandliberal

That's an interesting comparison.

knb said...

Really interesting. I need to digest that. Aren't you a wealth of knowledge?!

Thanks!

dalestreet said...

Hey Steve

I wouldn't say that Guelph is Liberal-safe. If you look at the election records, Guelph pretty much votes for the party that is in Government. If the pattern plays itself out again next election, Guelph will vote in a Tory.

Also, I'm wondering if the Liberals can afford to wait for an election? If the government introduce income-splitting in the budget, that'll get the attention of a lot of voters (a la GST-cut) and people will start thinking about their bank balance when they head to the polls.

Steve V said...

dale

I guess I should clarify. If Kennedy were to run in Guelph, he would win in a landslide.