With the Liberal Party of Canada set to elect their fourth leader in ten years on Sunday, the new Liberal leader will have to think about the West to be a contender in 2015.
During the years of Chrétien, the Liberals didn’t need to worry about the Western provinces. The Reform Party, the Progressive Conservatives and, later, the Canadian Alliance (formally the Reform Party, until the 2000 election), split the votes out west — enough for the Grits to focus on the East coast. This strategy allowed the Liberals, under Chrétien, to sweep most of Ontario and Quebec, resulting in 10 years of forming government.
In 2003, the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance formed together, making the Conservative Party of Canada. With the union of these two parties, western voters were united, dropping the Liberals to a minority government. By the time the 2006 election came, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were able form a minority government, gaining most of the western seats. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s votes were able to push the Conservatives into power, and the Liberals out.
In 2011, under the leadership of Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Party of Canada gained 34 seats in the House of Commons, a historic low for the party. With Quebec going NDP and Ontario Conservative, the Liberals lost their base, putting them into third-party statues.
With the Liberals set to elect a new leader this Sunday, the party will look to them for renewal – this should include looking at the West.
The best way for the Liberals to knock Harper from another majority is if they gain votes in the West. The West, right now, is the Conservatives base. Currently they hold 71 of 92 seats from the four provinces. The Liberals only hold four of those remaining seats.
Threehundredeight.com shows, in its recent federal polling average, that the Liberals could be a contender for 2013. The combination of polls shows the Liberals with 30 per cent support, the Conservatives still ahead with 30.9 per cent and the NDP trailing with 26.2 per cent. The polls also indicate the Liberals picking up support in Quebec and Ontario, however they still trail among the western provinces, in comparison to the Conservatives.
By the time of the 2015 election, the new Liberal leader will need to have made considerable steps to gaining trust with Western voters, or once again, the Conservatives will coast to victory.
For more information on the Leadership race, visit www.liberal.ca/leadership-2013 and follow the conversation on Twitter with #LPCldr. See our breakdown of the three frontrunners and analysis on which is best for the west.
Connect with Parker Lund on Twitter @lund_parker.
Image: Adam Scotti