Paging Western Canada Part II

More than 20 years after the words “The West wants in” were uttered first by the Reform Party, Preston Manning's vision for a new alignment of federal political power has come to fruition.

The election of a majority Conservative government has ushered a redrawn political map. The decimation of the separatist Bloc to a rump party status and accession to official opposition status of NDP of themselves were stunning events. But the destruction of the  Liberal party, which had with some conceit considered itself Canada's "natural governing party" without any significant political representation west of the Manitoba -- Ontario border, could have profound and lasting impacts on the future of Canada for the years, if not decades to come.

"Could" is the operative word here. While the Conservatives have made significant gains beyond its stronghold in Western Canada into southern Ontario and the Atlantic provinces as well the "new Canadian" vote, they have not clearly taken the mantle  of Canada's "natural governing party". They will most likely continue to govern with Harper at its helm, if not always in a principled way, in a pragmatic way. No big ideas in play, but  an incremental approach to policy implementation.
  
The Liberal Party has long and winding road ahead of itself. It has moves from its mourning stages of denial (the Conservative are not the true choice of Canadian with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote), anger (it was the anti-intellecutualism attacks on Michael! ), bargaining (maybe we should merge with NDP and form a new left to the Conservative right), depression (we only got 19 per cent of the popular vote and are third choice of Canadians for the first in our proud history) and the acceptance that they unwisely forced an election for which they were ill-prepared. The process has laid bare a party that is worn out to it foundations. Decades of neglect to its grassroots constituency and internecine leadership battles have left the party adrift and on very shaky financial foundations.
As well, Canada has slowly but perceptibly changed to where its traditional Ontario-Qubec base of the comfortable middle class, industrial workers and immigrants has eroded. Many immigrants have found the the Conservative pro-business and family values platform more to their liking, and the West has gained economically and demographically in significance.
 
Its chattering classes have to let go the idea that the crushing rejection of their and Harvard's favourite son, Michael Ignatieff, was a new low in Canadian politics. The very fact that Ignatieff could not win his own seat and that they have been reduced to third party status has made point that the party core is out of touch with the majority of Canadians. 
The Federal Liberals must resistance the temptation to lean left to match the Conservative right and merge with NDP. Instead, they need to forge a new vision as a centrist party if it has any chance to building on the growing constituency that the Nenshi campaign tapped into. Its needs a new grassroots blood at level and across this nation. It needs a fresh and legitimate western representation to counter the perception as an elitist Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa insider cabal. It needs to stop pandering to the old immigrant voter power brokers and reach out with a new appeal to individual immigrant vote.
Interestingly, one of the first steps of a federal Liberal rejuvenation may lay in the Alberta much like the Conservative party's own following the annihilation of the Progressive Conservative party in the 1993 federal election, the ascent of the Western Reform Party and the eventual unification and re-invention under the new Conservative party banner. The Albertan politically landscape is also slowly but perceptibly changing and the long ruling provincial Progressive Conservative are struggling under their own leadership and directional challenges. The new Wildrose Alliance party is splitting away some of its traditional base of support to the right.
The provincial Alberta Liberals should be heartened by the election of Naheed Nenshi as mayor of what is a perceived as the heart of right wing Canada.  However, it faces similar challenges as the provincial Progressive Conservatives with similar leadership uncertainties, strong NDP support in the northern half of Alberta and a possible resurgent Alberta Party that may split is voter base.
If the Liberals do manage a break through provincially, the Federal Liberals may have the opening for the development of real, substantive base of support in Alberta. Whether they can and have the will to leverage this opportunity will be one several challenges.  In the curse of their defeat, the Liberal have a the blessing of at four years to get their affairs in order and work towards building a solid centrist base in the west. If they squander this opportunity, sustantive change, they risk relegation to permanent political irrelevance.
 
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