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Why do the Conservatives keep missing the boat?

May 29th, 2015 · No Comments

The orange wave has toppled the bastion of blue.

The New Democratic Party’s (NDP) recent sweep to power in Alberta should put the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) on notice. Even if the right wing was united in that province, the combined seats of the Conservative and Wild Rose parties would not be enough to crush the wave. Meanwhile, the Liberals caused barely a ripple. It’s a clear signal that those living in the province wanted change.

It also reflects changing demographics.

People from the rest of Canada are moving to Alberta seeking jobs. But not all of them are ending up on oil rigs; just as many are settling in urban centres like Edmonton and Calgary, bringing with them their urban sensibilities and urban concerns. If we are lucky, it will force the western-centric CPC to start paying attention to the urban agenda, if only as a means of survival.

But, if past experience is any indication, we won’t be so lucky. The federal government has a history of ignoring cities, particularly Toronto. Even when the Liberals were in power, spouting lots of rhetoric about pursuing an urban agenda, that rhetoric rarely materialized into action.

As for the Conservatives, their strategy ignores the basic realities of our nation: 80 per cent of us live in cities. And one of those cities — the city that everyone loves to hate — Toronto, is an economic engine that drives the wealth of the country.

As with the Liberals before them, Conservative members of Parliament don’t seem to champion an urban- or Toronto-centric agenda. The Minister of Finance, Joe Oliver, serves a large Toronto riding, but you’d never know it when the budget is tabled.

At least, however, the CPC pays attention to Eglinton-Lawrence. It’s been ignoring Trinity-Spadina for years, fielding laughable candidates without any hope of success. One wonders if it’s the Conservatives’ version of hazing: sending the newbie to run in downtown Toronto, just to see how the candidate fares against the likes of well-known community stalwarts like Adam Vaughan, Olivia Chow, or Joe Cressy.

This election, however, the party had a chance to demonstrate its intent to take the riding seriously. The change in electoral boundaries has seen Trinity-Spadina split into University-Rosedale, Toronto-Centre, and Spadina-Fort York. Trinity-Spadina’s current MP, Adam Vaughan, will run in Spadina-Fort York, while Chrystia Freeland (MP, Toronto-Centre) will run in University-Rosedale. While both are Liberal, Freeland is new to parts of the Annex, as is NDP newcomer Jennifer Hollett, who will run against her.

In University-Rosedale, then, the CPC has a chance it hasn’t had in years: the opportunity to run against those who haven’t established a political toehold in the area. Further, with the boundary change, the party has demographics in its favour: a greater number of voters likely to flow to blue aligned against a group of voters who could run red, orange, or even green.

Except the Conservatives have already bungled it.

For one thing, waiting for the Conservatives to answer a Gleaner inquiry is akin to waiting for Godot. We’re trying not to take that personally.

What we are more concerned about is the candidate they’ve fielded. Young and energetic, Karim Jivraj has a website (that’s all we have to refer to) that focuses on his bilingualism, international perspective, and legal acumen, all of which (according to him) have positioned him as a successful future legislator. What the website doesn’t reflect, or even discuss, is an understanding of issues specific to University-Rosedale, or even Toronto. It also fails to mention that he hasn’t even lived here for a year. Is that the whiff of a carpet bag we smell?

It’s time for the Conservatives to take our neighbourhood, and our city, seriously.

Tags: General