"We have to be a national party"
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:
"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.