The Conservative Party of Canada is at a dangerous juncture. Despite leader Erin O’Toole’s best efforts, the party lost seats in the suburban riding in last week’s election.
Conservatives are at risk of entering an ideological spiral in which they are cut off from communities in which more and more two third Canadians remain, even as rural lawmakers dominate an increasingly out-of-touch caucus. The Tories are on the verge of getting themselves unelected.
He had a bad night in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. In Steveston-Richmond East, Richmond Center and Cloverdale-Langley City, the Conservatives went down to defeat at the hands of the Liberals. They lost to the NDP at Port Moody-Coquitlam.
In Greater Toronto, conservatives could celebrate King-Vaughan’s move away from grits. But he mourned the loss of office bearers at Aurora-Oak Ridge-Richmond Hill and Markham-Unionville.
The news is not entirely serious. An analysis by Chen Wang showed that, between the 2019 and 2021 elections, the Conservative share of the popular vote declined in Greater Vancouver, while the party’s share of the popular vote increased in the Greater Toronto areas of Peel, Durham and Halton.
Nonetheless, the fact remains: Grits made 50 rides in Greater Toronto. Tories hits a six. That’s where the election is.
In Alberta, the Conservatives had Calgary Skyview, Edmonton Center and Edmonton Grisbach snatched from them by the Liberals in the first two cases and by the NDP in the third.
Some of the benefits of registered Conservatives were in more rural ridings or smaller urban centers, such as Nova Scotia’s Cumberland-Colchester and South Shore-St. Margaret’s, and Peterborough-Kawartha of Ontario.
Urbanization of the Liberal Party and ruralization of the Conservative Party have been steadily increasing since the 1960s, as authors Jack Lucas of the University of Calgary and Dave Armstrong and Jack Taylor of the University of Western Ontario point out in a new study. Research Paper.
“Canadians are currently experiencing the deepest urban-rural divide in support of major political parties in the country’s history,” conclude the authors.
Liberals win elections even when they lose the popular vote by benefiting from suburban vote splits, while conservatives hold an overwhelming majority in rural seats.
as Darrell Bricker, chief executive officer of the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs, and I wrote in The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business and Culture and What It Means for Our Future, a governing Conservative coalition, consists of rural and suburban voters, leaving the city centers for progressives. But if the Conservative Party does not win Toronto and the surrounding suburbs of Vancouver, that coalition cannot exist.
As the rural-urban rift widens, both the parties suffer. Liberals lose access to parliamentarians who share the values and perspectives of the rural people. But the Conservatives lose much more: an intimate connection with the needs and wants of suburban voters, and with it the hope of winning elections.
As the Conservative Party is increasingly grounded in suburbia, it risks becoming a captive to gun owners, evangelists, climate-change skeptics, anti-Semitism and other right-wing activists who have a strong rural base but whose values There are curses for most suburbanites. .
The Tories also run the risk of becoming a captive to rural MPs who are absolutely secure in their seats, who know they will never be in cabinet, and who care less about winning a government than their influence within the party. .
One of the most striking aspects of the 2021 campaign was that the Conservatives harmed themselves by refusing to vaccinate their candidates and proposing to loosen firearm restrictions. Both issues have some rural appeal; Didn’t play well in the suburbs.
When they do their postmortem on election defeat, the Conservatives need to remember one fact above all else: just as they can discount the strongly progressive elite that dominates the downtowns of big cities, because they The elections are too few in number to decide, therefore, they too can and should give an exemption to conservative rural voters, who are too few in number to decide the election.
The suburbs are where the votes are. Every time the Conservatives lose a suburban seat, their connection to that all-important constituency weakens. Each time that relationship weakens, the chances of victory dwindle.
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