While it is more complicated than this, here's a crack at it...
We're seeing a gradual shrinkage of Liberal support outside of urban Canada, and Eastern Canada. We've lost ground in certain demographics.
What has the solution been so far? Some think going after the sprinkling of seats in the rural West is important... Some say we need some "great ideas" (which WILL come from the Thinkers Conference)...
What we really need is to start anew at selling Liberal ideology. We know what it is. We live it, and breathe it ourselves... But, we're an abysmal failure recently at selling it. Part of it is the struggle with HUGE and powerful corporate lobbies (which control media and other institutions).
We've surrendered our activism... Those of us who used to shout from the rooftops are timidly and meekly working our 9-to-fives. We've dropped the initiative, and have, instead, allowed some very VOCAL S0-Con groups (religious lobbies/organizations, etc.) to gain ground. The NDP are in much worse shape. They can't even count on union support all the time (sure, the "organization", but not the rank-and-file). They routinely side with the Conservatives - to the extent of defeating a centrist government in favour of a right wing one...
Where can the Liberal Party start to make a comeback?
1) Leadership has to be tough, and "take no $h!t". Whip, whip, whip, and whip some more (and hope we're not the proverbial "dead horse") - no matter who the leader is. Discipline is important.
2) Revisit our relationship with our "core" - which is slipping away. We need to ensure we have some very strong policy for women and our multicultural citizenry. We have to fight for the "ordinary guy" and the "little guy". Far-seeing immigration policy (but not JUST immigration policy, but also policy that benefits women and all minorities) that addresses the impact of Canada's aging population is needed (and a guarantee that we hit those numbers, rather than seeing applications be lost in red tape). Bring in the bright minds that will drive Canada into the 21st Century and beyond - not just the "rent-a-laborer" program the Conservatives have (which will use these fine folks then send them packing once the Alberta oil projects are done). We need visionary women's and family ideas that reflect the direction this party was taking in the late 60s and early 70s - and take those to the next evolutionary step...
3) Communicate more effectively. We need to continue with recent efforts by the party to disseminate info (good job guys - the recent efforts are worthy of praise). There is still much work to do. How do we effectively communicate with "Joe Ordinary", or "middle Canada"? Part of this will include educating the masses. We shouldn't have to "dumb down" the messaging. Rather than letting neanderthal thinking from So-Con groups and corporate interests continue to "dumb down" discourse, we should ensure citizens are educated on the workings of Parliament (and other legislatures) and carry on that interest well into their adult years.
4) Do we forget about the Canadian version of "flyover States"? No. We should embrace our common interests (and there are many). Read on (from an earlier writing):
The Liberal Party has been receiving our lumps from detractors claiming we don’t have a platform/ideology which supports all of rural Canada. We’re often dubbed a “party of urban Canada”, or the “party of new Canadians”. While we proudly wear those two monikers, we feel an injustice has been done in the opinion of our rural vision.
Liberal policy has helped build rural Canada. It shows in our strength in the most desolate locations in rural Canada (the North). It shows in the creation of Canada’s railways, highways, and great Western hotels. It continues to show in the party’s concern for our First Nations, and for the environment.
Still, we do understand that we have areas for improvement, growth, and re-focus. A “holistic approach” must be the new way - an urban-rural “synergy”. The “normal way” - particularly on the “wings” - are parties which stick to one core group of support. The NDP tends to focus on labor. The Reform/Conservative Party tends to bank on the religious right and rural Canada (or larger centers in the rural West). Even when paying “lip service” to other regions, their policy and attitudes are directed to support their Western rural base.
On the contrary the Liberal Party of Canada has always seen itself as a Pan-Canadian Party... The party of nation-building. Having said that, we have been strapped by right-wing media twisting our rural vision into something that it isn’t meant to be. Instead of expounding on the virtues of our efforts to help “smaller” farmers, and smaller rural municipalities, detractors tend to focus on issues like the “Wheat Board” - which are the interest of larger and corporate farms, gun registry, and the long dead NEP (this mainly in AB, and for some reason more resonant in the rural areas than urban).
How do we address this disconnect? We can pay lip service all we want to “wanting to work for” Western farmers... but that isn’t our way. We must embrace rural Canada - along with the rest of Canada. We need to develop an “urban rural synergy” which not only addresses issues in both “parts” of the nation, but also encourages understanding... This understanding must foster growth of good environmental practices, local farming (including “ALR” lands, the “100-mile diet”), and transportation links which encourage suburban and rural lifestyles - while maintaining a “green” society. Through such synergy, we can keep rural Canada vibrant, grow the green economy, increase business for local farmers, and grow Canada’s economy like it never has before.
While doing this, we must also re-visit our “core” support. While we have addressed “urban/metro” issues in past budgets and platforms, our support of new Canadians - while being very strong - has not been “sold” properly. We have failed to make serious issues of many Conservative attacks on the welfare of new Canadians. Conservative policy pays lip-service to the needs of new Canadians, while pulling the rug out from under them. Liberal MPs, and our leader need to spend more time in urban and visible minority communities, and explain the virtues (for all Canadians) of a party of strong fiscal managers with a social conscience. Entrepreneurial new Canadians have thrived with support from strong Liberal economic direction. New Canadians have benefitted from a Liberal focus on multi-culturalism (including community groups that policy has benefitted - while bettering the rest of Canada). Our stand on the Charter of Rights - and our liberation of that document - has helped foster an enriching and liberating environment for new Canadians... An environment which helps these communities thrive with a lesser specter of discrimination and prejudice.
Suburban Canada is the meeting place of rural and urban. For Liberals to win votes in this region means we will have to provide what these areas REALLY need. Rather than fear-mongering about crime and punishment, we owe the suburbs better planning and layout - and encouraging municipalities to do so with directed funding. Communities thrive when jobs, stores, homes, schools, and entertainment are all close together - walking distance if possible - with a strong link of public transit...
Public transit is something that ISN’T just an urban issue. In the Lower Mainland of BC, the fastest growing cities (like Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Langley) require easier commutes and better commute times. How do you improve family life in Abbotsford? Not by building another prison, but by giving residents another hour or two in their daily lives. Time to take kids to hockey and soccer. Time to spend money in local businesses. Time to innovate and be creative. That time will be created if we provide rail transit into the Fraser Valley.
The Fraser Valley is not the only region where suburban and rural families will benefit from better mass transit. The Calgary-Red Deer-Edmonton corridor is another area where mass transit is sorely needed. Ambitious governments could extend this corridor to booming Fort MacMurray (notorious for traffic jams). Southern Ontario to Montreal is another key region requiring better mass transit. Atlantic Canada needs stronger links to the rest of Canada. Subsidies for rail service has worked in the EU, in taking cars off the streets, and in saving fuel, while improving lives of residents. With a few key projects we can bring Canadians closer together, and make Canada greener.
We CAN celebrate the co-existence of urban and rural areas - and the suburban junctions. By bringing communities closer together, making them greener, and improving the standard of living, all Canadians will be happier, and all Canadians will see the Liberal Party as THE party of nation-building.
Ps: Keep taking advantage of the Conservative allergy to "critical thought", science, and intelligence. Human civilization has only advanced due to the "thinking" of great minds. Only luddites and Neanderthals bury their heads in the sand and deny reality. We NEED to emphasize this fact and take advantage of the Conservative's hatred of, and resistance to reason and intellectual thought.