Wednesday, June 08, 2011

"We have to be a national party"

As I mentioned earlier, Mark Holland gave a real barn burner at the ALP convention the weekend before last.

What made it such a great speech was that he avoided the usual cliches you get from federal politicians when they come to Calgary - "Alberta Liberals are the best Liberals! Stephen Harper is awful! Go local sports team!". Rather, Holland captured the mood of the room, and made a compelling case about the challenges facing the party nationally. If you'd taken a vote for party president in the room afterwards, it would have been a landslide.

The complete speech can be viewed bellow, but I want to draw your attention to a key section:

Politics Reimagined: Mark Holland from Corey Hogan on Vimeo.

"What we saw in Alberta, we wrote off as an aberration, rather than looking at it as a harbinger of what was to come. Rather than looking at it as a sign that we had to change our politics, we retreated and gave them safe harbour. We allowed them to not worry about it - we have Conservative MPs who don't even go to their own ridings because they don't figure they have to. And as we retreated from Alberta, we retreated from Quebec. And as we retreated from Quebec, we retreated from rural Canada. And as we retreated from rural Canada, we found the Conservatives focusing all their energies on our remaining seats as we tried desperately to protect them.

We have to be a national party. We have to recognize that if we're not successful in places like Calgary and Edmonton, we won't be successful at all."

I know in the post-subsidy world, there's less incentive to be competitive in all parts of the country. And like Mark said in his speech, there's a huge temptation for the "quick fix", or to only focus on winning back seats like his in the 905.

But as I've argued before, there's no reason the Liberal Party can't be competitive in at least 7 or 8 Calgary and Edmonton ridings. It's not necessarily about winning those seats in 2015 - it's about laying the groundwork so that a strong national campaign will turn them red. It's what the NDP did to go from third-to-first in Edmonton Strathcona, and it's what they're in the process of doing in Edmonton East and Edmonton Centre.

So what does a 308 riding strategy look like?

There are a lot of things that could be a part of it. Some ideas I've heard:

1. Nominate candidates early. Avoid the temptation for "star" candidates. Instead, find people involved in the community, with a team of hard working volunteers, who are willing to door knock the riding over and over again for the next eight years.

2. Send the leader and MPs there. Obviously enough, the Liberal leader isn't going to spend the entire election in Alberta, but there's no reason Liberal MPs can't put the time in between campaigns. Be sure to hold Town Halls and talk to the local papers when they're there.

3. Engage the existing members. Even if it's just a case of the party's Natural Resources Critic calling the Fort McMurray membership list and asking them what they think about a contentious oilsands issue, at least they'll feel listened to and like an important part of the big red machine.

4. It's important to make sure all ridings are at a minimum level to function properly. The Change Commission made a lot of recommendations to this end (most of which were ignored), including the hiring of field workers, and providing weaker ridings with the resources they need in the form of handbooks, website templates, new member welcome packages, and election readiness kits.

5. Create a "deal" of sorts with the ridings, where the party provides resources in exchange for certain targets being met. One example I heard recently was that the LPC would offer to ID voters via a demon dial of the riding, so long as local Liberals followed up with identified Liberals and invited them out to local events (ideally, something simple like a Liberal BBQ with a federal MP).

There are many other things the party could do as part of a 308-riding strategy. At the top of the list is writing up a clear plan with timelines and targets - and making sure it is actually implemented.

As Mark Holland said in his speech, there's no easy road back or short cut. It's going to take a lot of work.

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  • Mark Holland and his gun-control fixation put him in the vanguard of the Liberal retreat from rural Canada.

    Until I hear a realistic plan as to how Mark Holland plans to help undo the damage he did to rural Liberalism, fuck Mark Holland.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:11 p.m.  

  • Mark Holland, LPC President - I actually like how that sounds. Think we could convince him to do it?

    By Blogger Kyle H., at 4:32 p.m.  

  • Siobhan Coady will be the next LPC President!

    The Liberals need to make huge changes. You mention nominating candidates earlier which I think is a must. In St. John's East, Newfoundland and Labrador's biggest riding, the Liberals didn't nominate a candidate till either a few days before or a few days after the election was called. While the Liberals never had much chance in the riding they still shouldn't have taken it for granted. It was only a few years ago they were winning over 30% here and this time I don't think they broke 10%, even though their candidate was a successful businessman from a known family and was married into a very well known family.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 4:50 p.m.  

  • Well, you get what the NDP is trying to do in Alberta (and especially Edmonton), all right. It makes me wish you were playing for our team. *g*

    Are there people like that in the Liberal Party, though? I'm no expert, but my impression is that the party has historically been dominated by people who NO WAY IN HELL would be willing to knock on doors for eight years and then still possibly not win.

    By Blogger Jae/Jennie, at 5:45 p.m.  

  • Jae/Jennie,

    That's not the impression I've gotten at all, anywhere in the Liberal Party.

    By Blogger Kyle H., at 6:08 p.m.  

  • Liberals exist who knock doors. I've always told candidates who aren't knocking at least a year PRIOR to a writ drop that they won't win.

    Problem for the Liberals has been the problems of power. I've been a Liberal since the Trudeau years. I lived through the "thin" years of the Mulroney years. I remember what it took to win in certain ridings for Chretien. When we were in power, however, many of the best workers moved to Ottawa or local MP offices - or got private contracts, or became consultants. Many people came out to "support a winner" too... Too often many of these were simply "hangers-on" who wanted to grow their own brand. Perhaps lawyers wanting to be judges, people looking for board appointments, youth wanting office jobs. Many of the "thousands" we found were our "suitors" were really in it for themselves. Many of the rest of us continued to soldier on... but the "suitors" were able to seize riding associations and party apparatus for their own goals, their own leadership candidates, etc.

    We need to get out and knock doors, but also meet in public forums, exchange ideas with our neighbors, and grow the party membership. Let's keep the engagement with our grassroots, once we have it back.

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 6:32 p.m.  

  • You seem to be labouring under the idea that your defeat reflects a failure to communicate your message. Instead of telling us (rural, western or northern Canada) how great you are - how about listening for a change. Making my father register his single-shot 22 or sell his wheat through the Wheat Board isn't making me want to vote for you. And it's not because I don't understand your 'message'.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:15 p.m.  

  • Anon - truth be told, people who consider the gun registry the greatest hardship ever imposed on the Canadian people likely aren't going to vote Liberal no matter what the party does.

    But I think it's simplistic to say all rural Canadians feel the same way about these issues. After all, the results from past Wheat Board elections have been inconclusive.

    Certainly there are other issues the Liberals could attach themselves to that are important to rural Canadians. Being a downtown city boy myself, I won't pretend to know what they are, but I'm sure the Liberals could create a fairly compelling message for rural Canadians so that their candidates have something positive to say on the doorsteps.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:27 a.m.  

  • You haven't mentioned money. Thirty percent of Liberal candidates did not meet the ten percent of votes threshold for getting refunds from Elections Canada. Liberals are losing millions by losing official oppostion status and the government vote subsidy. How attactive is it to be a candidate for a party that is broke?

    By Anonymous Nuna D. Above, at 11:54 a.m.  

  • calgarygrit, the gun issue was a significant contributor to the Liberal decline in previously Liberal rural Ontario, Maritimes, and northern-provincial seats, and was the single biggest fundraising tool that Tories had to channel money into getting rid of rural Liberals.

    It was not the only issue, by any means, but it was a Very Big Factor.

    Trust this rural Liberal.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:55 a.m.  

  • I agree with others that whipping the gun registry vote was a great example of how far the party was willing to go to burn any long term growth in rural regions so that we could get a short term leg up on the NDP.

    Layton let his rural MP's vote against the registry. That's exactly how you build a nation-wide coalition.

    My riding had a serious and energetic candidate for us. He quit after the gun registry whip because he (rightly) knew that such a move forever cut off chances for growth. Now obviously he wouldn't have won anyway... but it's a great example of how we've essentially given up all hope of winning in these areas... forever stunting our growth.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:15 p.m.  

  • But anonymous 6:15, at least our strong position on gun control will help us in Montreal and Toronto and Vancouver and Winnipeg and Halifax and Edmonton and Saskatoon and Regina and Quebec City and London!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:56 p.m.  

  • It wasn't my intent to turn this into a debate over the merits of the gun-registry, although I expect that was the issue that tipped the balance and caused our MP Larry Bagnell to lose his seat. Simply that I don't feel that the Liberal party is doing a very good job of listening to us. With respect to the Wheat Board - why is it okay for a farmer in Ontario to have the choice of where to sell but not a farmer in Alberta? I'm not saying there are no merits to a single-desk marketer but how about having the debate - instead - too often I feel that opposing opinions are simply dismissed as 'wrong'.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:43 p.m.  

  • "why is it okay for a farmer in Ontario to have the choice of where to sell but not a farmer in Alberta"

    Until that question is answered honestly (i.e. "it isn't"), sufficient people will remain alienated.

    "at least our strong position on gun control will help us in Montreal and Toronto and Vancouver and Winnipeg and Halifax and Edmonton and Saskatoon and Regina and Quebec City and London"
    If sarc/on, then well said. If not, give your head a shake.

    No riding goes 100% for a single party. The Liberal party has no idea which particular issue will sway which of the % that didn't vote their way last time to either continue the trend or reverse it. They can't.

    But assumptions, particularly sweeping ones, are a bad idea. And CG, you disappoint me. " After all, the results from past Wheat Board elections have been inconclusive"

    Why not suggest the 'CANADA Wheat Board" sell grain for ALL of Canada and see how that flies?

    It's about fairness. It's about being heard.

    Do you think I like every move the CPC have made since being in government, minority or otherwise? Hell no.

    But. I can email my MP, and Harper, directly, and get a response. Not just an autoresponse, although that's the first thing I'll see. But eventually, I'll get a "real" response (which is likely still some backroom admin assistant with superduper cut&paste skills, but it presents an image that someone, somewhere read my email and at the very least, marked a tally in the "for" or "against" column.)

    When Landslide Annie was my MP, all I ever got back was requests for my postal code. Even when it was included in the original email.

    Points to ponder.

    By Blogger Candace, at 4:02 a.m.  

  • PS: Mark Holland in any kind of leadership position in the party.

    The equivalent of Pierre Poilievre in a leadership role in the CPC as a vote getter.

    Just sayin'

    By Blogger Candace, at 4:08 a.m.  

  • Sarcasm totally intended.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 p.m.  

  • "why is it okay for a farmer in Ontario to have the choice of where to sell but not a farmer in Alberta"

    Until that question is answered honestly (i.e. "it isn't"), sufficient people will remain alienated.

    The Ontario farmers voted to change the rules. It could be as simple as that. In the end, the Canadian Wheat Board could vote to end the monopoly on wheat as they did with barley. The government wants to avoid a vote on the issue.

    Why the government doesn't allow for a vote as it did with barley?

    2006: Wheat board elections favour pro-monopoly candidates

    2010: Wheat Board changes may have to wait.

    "The Conservative bid to dramatically change the Canadian Wheat Board may have to wait another few years after farmers elected a roster of directors who largely favour the agency the way it is."

    If there are to be changes to the wheat board, best to let the farmers decide. (Should the federal vote count? The problem is that how many people agree with every position a party makes when they cast a vote? Asking farmers about their wishes for the Canadian Wheat Board would generate a more accurate answer than the federal vote.)

    As for why Ontario isn't part of the Canadian Wheat Board? Good question. Part of this might be because of the fact that Ontario counts for just 5% of all the wheat in Canada (Prairies generate around 90%. Corn and soyabeans are the big cash crops in the province. Wheat is grown in Ontario, but some of it is for crop rotation -- wheat and red clover increase yield for following corn crops. <-- May effect the market. ) Also most of the wheat in the province is soft wheat, whereas the Prairies grow hard red wheat (small producer, different product). It could also be history -- the CWB was created during the depression and seemed to follow wheat pools in the individual prairie provinces. There may not have been a lot of wheat grown in Ontario at the time. Anyway, some things to consider.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 1:07 p.m.  

  • When did the liberals win rural seats in Western Canada EVEN before the gun registry. The people who have a problem with being able to register their legal guns in a police database are not the Liberal base, they might vote liberal under extraordinary circumstances in an election but in reality that is the conservative heartland.

    The only successes for Liberals in rural English Canada until this election were in Atlantic Canada because they have huge trust problems with stephen harper and off course local issues there favour the Liberals. Liberals were winning all of rural ontario at the height of the implementation of the gun registry by vote spliting between reform and pc parties. The north of ontario goes NDP when liberals are weak and goes Liberal when they are strong. Yukon stayed liberal until this past election, obviously the gun registry had zero impact all these years. The northern saskatchewan riding and churchill that Liberals won in 2006 were won because of the aboriginal votes and kelowna accord. Infact visible, linguistic and cultural minorities, aboriginals, progressive women, sexual minorities and urbanites in central canada and the west coast are the only Liberal base. If the liberals are to pick up any seats in Alberta they are going to come from Calgary or Edmonton and the gun registry or the wheat board are not the issues there, besides the entire seat growth in the upcoming expansion is going to be in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton all urban areas.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:45 p.m.  

  • Zero impact?

    The Tories have been building their organizations in rural/remote ridings on the gun issue for years.

    This wasn't a one-election thing.

    And yes, seat growth is going to be in urban areas. How did our strong stance on gun control help us in urban areas in 2011 or any other election? And which urban areas?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:10 p.m.  

  • We do have a national party. It's just that it is, the eastern provinces national party. There is no room for the west in that party, never has been.

    The west is to keep their mouths shut, and keep on shoveling our taxes to the east, for very few crumbs in return. The west needs it's own national party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:14 a.m.  

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