Trudeau's slide in the polls continues to pave the way for the potential election of Andrew Scheer as Prime Minister, along with the rise of the alt-right in Canada under Maxime Bernier. As this developoment is very concerning to many people, we wonder, could this have been prevented? Can we still reverse this trend?
The answer to both of these questions is yes. How does this happen? In the 2011-2012 NDP Leadership campaign, one of the main planks in Niki Ashton's leadership campaign was what she called the Lethbridge Declaration. After the Sherbrooke Declaration where the NDP reached out to Quebec and was credited for the 2011 breakthrough, Niki proposed the same idea, to meet in Lethbridge, and reach out to Western Canada. Unfortunately the NDP essentially ignored her idea. But it's been ignoring Western Canada for a long time, despite the fact that this is where they traditionally do the best. Prior to 1993, the NDP's base was solidly western. However, the NDP lost 1993, they essentially gave up and tried to become a "national" party afterwards. The most ironic result of this neglect is that the seat currently held by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was once a safe NDP seat. Provincially, in 3 of the 4 western provinces, the NDP can be reliably counted on to at least be the official opposition, better than any provincial section anywhere else. The only 2 provinces that ever deliberately re-elected an NDP government (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) are in the west. Even in 2015 when the NDP crashed and burned overall, their seat count in Western Canada actually went up. Let's go back to the basics! The first and immediate prioroity for the next NDP leader to rebuild the party will be to secure seats in Western Canada. I want the NDP to elect MPs from Selkirk, Dauphin, Yorkton, Melville, Melfort, Prince Albert, North Battleford, Moose Jaw, and Kamloops. Does that sound crazy to you? Every one of those cities has elected an NDP MP during my lifetime. Why is this doable? Because the Liberal brand is traditionally not popular in Western Canada, and the NDP would have crossover appeal to Conservatives if they put in the effort to do so. "Oh, but the NDP loses by such large margins in these ridings that it is a waste of time!" That is very strange logic to me. In many seats the NDP has never won, they also lose by margins that are just as large if not larger. Why does it make sense to try and win areas the NDP has never won but not to try and win back areas the NDP used to win?
So what are the issues in Western Canada? Transportation is a big thing. The Greyhound cuts are only the most recent. Rail lines have also been dug up and abandoned, which hurts the smaller farmers. Even passenger rail has been cut back. Try and get a train ticket to Regina and you will see what I mean by that. We need to invest in the railroads to help our communities thrive. Agriculture is another issue. We need massive changes to our agricultural system. The NDP is partiularly vulnerable here, because there is a growing movement of younger, organic farmers out in these parts. If the NDP doesn't reach out to these people, the Greens will, and they will (figuratively and literally) eat our lunch with this demographic if we don't invest resources. Energy and energy production is also an issue. Saskatchewan and Alberta have a huge potential for renewable energy. That is the real failure of federal leadership on these issues. There is also a high concentration of First Nations populations in the area. Their rights need to be respected, and their aspirations of realizing their potential need to be supported. I'm sure others can also talk about Western issues that I have missed.
The time is now! There is a very strong anti-establishment sentiment in Western Canada. Not only do people dislike the Liberal brand, but people voting for the first time in 2019 have only known a time when the Conservatives dominated Western Canada. They are now the Ottawa establishment, and should be made to wear that. With the People's Party of Canada also splitting the right-wing vote, there is also a small window of opportunity to capitalize on that and win the trust and respect of Western Canadian communities, and offer actual solutions to the challenges they face. Let's go on. Let's win back the cities I mentioned. From there, when the NDP finally forms a federal government, they can also win Brandon, Weyburn, Estevan, Swift Current, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort MacMurry, Prince George, and Kelowna. Let's do this thing!