See? I'm Not The Only One

Not to say that I only feel warm inside when a well-known pundit agrees with me, but John Ibbitson's column in today's Globe and Mail (which can be found here if you're a subscriber … and if you're not, there's some Google-trick you can use to read it, but I don't know what it is, sorry) makes the point that I was trying to make when last I posted. A few excerpts:

Could we please remember something? Stephen Harper actually won this election.

[I]t is ludicrous to presume that this government will be weak, ineffectual and short-lived. Mr. Harper, his caucus and their advisers possess considerable strengths, and will be able to use the levers of power to build on those strengths.

… Mr. Harper must meet the House as soon as he can, and get on with the job. He can do so knowing that his mandate is more robust and his prospects more promising than his critics are willing to concede.

Ibbitson makes some other points, not the least of which is that Conservatives should not fall into the trap of blaming voters in Toronto/Montreal/Vancouver for their poor results in those cities. Instead, he suggests that "Mr. Harper and his supporters must retool the party to appeal to these voters."

To a large extent, I agree. I've always believed that if somebody doesn't vote for us, the first place we should look to assign blame is in the mirror (absent fraud, of course). If the CPC didn't appeal to voters in those cities, the Party should ask itself why.

However, I would not go as far as what is suggested in Ibbitson's column. The CPC should try to make itself more attractive to those mega-urban(*) voters, but it should not do so by twisting itself into nothing more than a Lib-lite pretzel. A thoughtful, detailed policy-development process can, I believe, find ideas that fit inside the tent of small-c conservatism and which appeal to voters in those cities in sufficient numbers to win at least a few seats. More on this policy-development process later.

(* "Mega-urban" is my shorthand for Toronto/Montreal/Vancouver. To say that the Tories didn't win seats in or near "urban Canada" as a whole is demonstrably false: the CPC won seats in or near Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, London (in the areas surrounding it, if not in the city itself), Ottawa (ditto), Quebec City and St. John's, and that's just a list off the top of my head. Despite what some Torontonians may think, none of these places can be defined as "rural".)

The issue of winning in mega-urban Canada is one of the issues that the CPC will have to deal with, and not in the too-distant future. But honestly: I would rather grapple with these issues in the context of figuring out how the Tories can win a majority next time, rather than figuring out why my Party lost again.

More later.


At 2:52 p.m., Blogger Candace said...

The Vancouver thing is a myth. There were Tories elected in "the Lower Mainland" just not in Vancouver itself (pop +/-700k).

At 3:09 p.m., Blogger doug said...

I forget where i read this observation but it struck me as directly on target.

The 'natural' devide between metropolitan voters and their less citified countrymen is largely a matter of 'services'.

If you exist in a large city you are both used to and dependent upon the State providing virtually all of the 'features' you have grown to take for granted.

However if you live in a more 'rural' location, you don't have the subways, the buses, the hospitals, or many of the other things that abound in the cities.
But you still pay the Federal Taxes that to some measure underlay these 'services'.

What is a legitimate Conservative approach is to get the Feds out of these areas almost entirely. Decrease Federal Taxes and download the 'ability' to raise revenue to the Provinces and hence to the cities which are Provincial responsibilities. If Toronto wants something let Toronto and Ontario pay for it, but give them the resource base with which to operate effectively should they desire. Conversely, someone in Timmins or Red Deer should not have to pay Federal Tax to allow Toronto to pay for its own choice of expenditures.

I think this is actually what the Conservative program is designed to accomplish. Less Federal Tax, but more Provincial/Municipal Taxes to directly pay for the services demanded. A user pays system that is fair to everyone. If you want to keep locating in Toronto rather than elsewhere, then you must pay for that decision. You can't simply demand or expect someone in Saskatoon to ante up to support your lifestyle.

At 3:31 p.m., Anonymous Jeff said...

I don't think the CPC should change itself much to appease TO, etc. I think they are only slower to respond than the rest of the country. I think the CPC should stick to it's guns and govern as it campaigned. If they give us responsible government and come through on their proposals I think even the people of TO will realize that the sky does not fall when the CPC gets elected and will be more receptive next election.
If the CPC tries to appease TO at every turn they will end up as a directionless, dithering govt just like we saw with the Liberals.
The motto of the CPC should be "hey, we can't please everybody but we are an honest party that will do what we said we were going to do".

At 4:00 p.m., Blogger Jason Hickman said...

Candace: Good point.

Doug: You've given us a fair bit to chew on. I'm not sure I agree with your proposal re: downloading ability to pay, but it's certainly worth adding to the debate.

Jeff: I agree that Harper and the CPC caucus should focus on governing, and good (and clean) government will provide its own rewards.

That said, I'm hoping that there's room for the Party to debate / consider new ideas for urban Canada. My preference is not the usual "hand over a cheque" solution, but what I think the Party should do, in the fullness of time, is examine a host of different ideas that would be "conservative" and which would appeal to urban voters. More on this later from me, hopefully.

At 10:22 a.m., Blogger doug said...

Re Goggle Trick

Until the Globe gets wise to it :

Goggle globe + name of columnist . This should bring up the latest column published on line and bypasses the subscription routine.

At 11:53 p.m., Blogger Mark Francis said...

Good to meet you last night, Jason.

Would have talked more with you, but, man, there were a lot of people!

Now, I don't at all vote conservative, but it seems to me:

One in four Torontonians votes conservative. That should have been worth a few seats!

You guys need to pick a few ridings to really push in. I know St. Paul was one you guys pushed in using Peter Kent as a star candidate, but that might not have been the best choice of ridings?

As for the riddle of how to be more appealing, well, you'll need some time for people to get used to Harper as PM, but you also need to look at your philosophy and explain to urban dwellers outside of Alberta how they will benefit from them. From there, consider whatever policy changes you may need to make.

Toronto has nearly 10% of Canada's population, Ontario has 1/3. Quebec has another 25%. If we think a party has us as second fiddle, we're going to keep looking elsewhere. It's the reality of the matter.

It the CPC's policies really are great for us, sell HARDER!.

Being the government now will give you that opportunity is you use it. You will either succeed and have a majority in 12-18 months, or flop.

Of course, you should all be voting Green instead. ;)


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