80% of Canada's population (+) lives in so-called "urban" areas.
The last major loss (last week) for the Liberal Party reflected a collapse of support in those areas. When you break down the "collapse", it was large if you consider "seat numbers", but popular vote-wise was a few percentage points in many areas.
So what can we do to start winning that support back? What types of policy can we implement that finds support in the key suburban ridings we lost?
There are a few areas where we have room to grow, or be "reborn":
1) New Canadians - We took a major hit within new Canadian and visible minority communities. In cities like Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, Delta, Brampton, Mississauga, Malton, and even Vancouver and Toronto, we lost vote on both sides, but most particularly to the Harper Cons and Jason Kenney's almost WEEKLY appearances on ethnic media and at event venues. As one who is a founder of a South Asian policy institute, we were appalled at the LPC's lack of interest in pursuing this vote beyond propping up our existing MPs. Issues that could have been used weren't, and we lost much vote.
When you consider that Canada's two FASTEST GROWING CITIES are within that group (Surrey and Mississauga), you realize the folly in doing very little there (except late in the election, when it was a matter of trying to hold what we had). In reality the work in these cities should have been ongoing over the years. In 10 years (or less) Surrey will be BC's largest city - with a withering Liberal presence.
We seriously dropped the ball in this area, and it is where we need to recover. Sure there is a large recent immigrant business community - and we need to tap into that with notions of Liberals' strong economic policy (a historical fact). We will talk more of the "ethnic" policy area in coming posts.
2) Green policy with a practical, vote-winning bent - We introduced a "Green Shift" in the 2008 election that had no real advertising advantage. While the idea may have been good and sound, we needed a better way to sell it than allowing ourselves be open to the "spending" attack.
What we really needed to do was "go green" by finding populist green ideas. Ideas that would be win-win for suburban voters. Here is where a party policy convention would help. Voters strongly suspect election promises. Us "hiding" our platforms/ideas does no good. If our party - meaning our members - come out in front of an issue and OWN it, the public will have more inclination to believe us. Back it up with year-round ads, and you could have a winner.
Sea levels in BC are rising - so much that the right-leaning BC Prov Gov't is planning to spend $$$Millions more to raise dykes around the province. Climate change reality is beginning to set in. If there is to be a Merger, I'd advocate a pairing with the Greens before the NDP. The Greens have an economic ideology similar to ours.
I'm not a fan of any merger - but we couldn't hurt from an awareness of an issue which could take root if we sell it properly. BC, Quebec, and much of urban Ontario are open to ideological suggestion by a "Liberal-Green" Party (or a Green-Liberal Party). Not suggesting any merger here, but talking about a party vision.
As solid core set of "urban/suburban" policies (where 80%+ of the Cdn pop lives) including more green transit would benefit our electoral chances greatly. Voters in the Lower Mainland of BC would jump onboard a promise to connect Lower Mainland cities to Vancouver by rail, and to expand existing rail networks.
As a matter of fact, suburban residents EVERYWHERE in Canada would jump aboard any idea that would:
1) Lower their daily commute times (we could tell them about this with daily ads on "all-traffic" radio stations that everyone usually listens to at some time during their commute.
2) Allow them to spend much more time with families
3) Lower daily parking costs
4) Lower their gas costs, and perhaps even let them sell their cars
ALL people want to save money - not spend more. We CAN sell green ideas, but only with a description of how it will save Joe Public money. We also cannot wait until the writ to sell it. Start right after the policy convention.
As a former sales person and businessman I can assure you that people buy benefits - NOT ideas. The list above is personal benefits to Canadians for adopting a suggested Liberal policy.
There are a great set of suburban issues, which could net us votes in the next election. Let's find them. We will continue to grow this discussion in the days and weeks ahead. We will also expand the discussion to embrace the synergy which is needed with the farms which support the cities (and, yes, that is how we should always present it - the farmers "supporting" the cities - without farms the cities couldn't be).