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The Tories should look to Canada for victory

1 March 2014

11:34 AM

1 March 2014

11:34 AM

Is it really possible for the Tories to win a majority in 2015 after five years in government? Perhaps they need to look at the Conservatives in Canada, who won their majority in the 2011 elections after two elections where they won a minority government.

But the way the party won this majority was partly down to its active courting of the New Canadians – new migrants to the country from al over the world. Canada’s largest city, Toronto is probably the most diverse in the world, with half of its population from ‘visible minorities’. New Canadians tended to be supporters of the centre-left Liberal Party until a few years ago, even though their values – entrepreneurship, lower taxes, common sense law-and-order policies and a love of liberal democracy – sat more happily on the right of the political spectrum.

Having been in power for the majority of the 20th century, the Liberal Party of Canada was for many decades a catch-all coalition. It was sometimes a party based on Canadian nationalism (in the 1970s), sometimes a centrist party based on fiscal responsibility (in the mid-1990s) or a party that was half-New Labour, half-Liberal Democrats, but usually a little bit more centrist than the left-wing New Democratic Party.


Even if the Tories under Brian Mulroney in the 1980s did some work in order to find a niche among new Canadians, one of the many reasons why the centre-right in Canada was unable to win a majority before the 2011 election was that they were polling badly among New Canadians. In the 2011 election, Tories did as well among New Canadians as with other Canadians. They managed sweeping victories in constituencies in the Toronto and Vancouver areas where more than half of the population was from a ‘visible minority’.

But how did they manage this? Hard work won the battle, and the problem was not the party’s policies but how these were badly sold among newer Canadians. The Liberals were taking these groups for granted as the Labour party does for some constituencies in the UK, and so there was an opportunity for the Conservatives to intervene.

As with Margaret Thatcher and the Essex Man, the Conservatives’ message of opportunity and aspiration struck a chord among newer Canadians. Jason Kenney, the former minister of immigration and now minister of employment, did some important outreach work in order to build a base among new Canadians. Tories sought out interviews with media representing ethnic minority groups.

If the Tories want to emulate this success, they’ll need to realise that it involves hard work and a long-term strategy in order to convince voters who are quite natural conservatives that this party does speak for them too.


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