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My sentiments exactly. Go for a 10 province or 308 riding strategy, Liberals.

Dan Arnold, better known as CalgaryGrit, takes issue with Scott Reid’s rejection of Rob Silver’s plea for the Liberals to follow a made in Canada version of the Democratic Party’s 50 state strategy. Scott says all the Liberal Party should be doing is aiming to win more seats then the other guys, preferably enough to get a majority government, and Dan spells out the problem with that bit of logic:

Here’s the problem. The Liberals won 76 seats. They were within 10% of winning in 33 other seats – so maybe the “quick fix” can get us up to 109 seats next election and if that’s Scott’s target, that’s probably doable. If you’re a little more optimistic and you assume the Liberals win every seat they were in second place and within 20% of winning this time, that gives us 137 seats next election. Not bad, unless you consider that using the same criteria leaves the Conservatives competitive in 208 seats next election.

What people need to recognize is that when the Liberal Party isn’t even competitive in 155 seats, winning a majority government becomes kind of difficult. And unless real changes are made, it’s not going to get better anytime soon, no matter what saviour descends from the heavens to lead the party.

IF you want to read some Liberals who’s advice should be followed, follow the links at Dan’s blog to Rob Silver and Lloyd Axworthy’s columns.

As for Scott Reid, as I said over there, but will repeat over here; No disrespect intended to Mr. Reid, but he had his shot already, and the reason we the Liberals are where we are today is partly due to him and “the Board” and the rest of the advisers in Paul Martin’s inner circle. This past election just gives him a convenient scapegoat to blame everyone else for the malaise that started in the Liberal Party 6 years ago.

It’s foolish to dismiss a 308 riding or 10 province strategy a la Howard Dean; as I recall, the so-called Democratic strategists in the Beltway ridiculed Dean’s plan (and by extension, Obama’s embracing of it), and it’s a good thing no one bothered to listen to their bleating, because Obama and the democratic candidates in Congress are challenging Republicans in states that were as of just 4 years ago unheard of for a Democrat to be challenging in and winning. The Liberals need to apply a form of that same strategy here, and presuming Dion resigns today as leader, I’ll be looking for any leadership candidates to advocate some sort of plan to do those structural and organizational reforms before I endorse any of them. I’m not expecting that to happen, quite frankly, which probably means I’ll be a neutral observer in this upcoming show circus.

As for Scott Reid and his advice, again with all due respect, I’m sure he’s a smart guy and all. but at this point, I’d be prepared to say anything he says, do the opposite of.


11 comments to My sentiments exactly. Go for a 10 province or 308 riding strategy, Liberals.

  • WesternGrit

    We need to handle the fundraising AND at least engaging all voters in every province. Harper established “beachheads” in Liberal territory – the cities, by engaging the “ethnic vote” – something no-one thought the Cons could, or wanted to do. We, on the other hand, took the “ethnics” for-granted, gave up on even engaging voters on the Prairies into thinking for themselves, and ended up where we are.

    If we don’t follow the American lead, lets at least follow Harpers:
    – win back the ethnic vote – a critical part to our keeping our cities
    – expand to the greater urban/suburban vote
    – show our faces and our brand in places like the Prairies

    Even rallies and public meetings in those centers help. Let’s not kid ourselves, though, there are ridings in AB, and SK, which are not going to be anything but Con.

    The bottom line, however, will be the bottom line: we need funds and volunteers. We need to engage members into a monthly donation plan. We need to have a “liberal” (note small “l”) policy “skeleton” which reflects liberal policy basics – ways we feel on very general issues – that is available as speaking points AT ALL TIMES so would-be candidates and volunteers have something to go by, when someone asks, “what do Liberals stand for?”

  • “You have to apply a reasoned implementation of it, though. As we are in a minority parliament, we have to prioritize ridings. There’s no way we can do a 308 riding initiative which will work in 18 months. Doing so would spread ourselves thin, and perhaps cost us ridings we could otherwise take.”

    Rahm Emanuel said the same damned thing, in a country with a fixed two-year cycle as part of a more troubled party. Dean was right. Rahm wasn’t.

  • Anonymous: memories are short, apparently. When Dean announced his strategy, a lot of Dems were ticked, because the Dems really weren’t “flushed with cash”. Their fundraising was behind the Republicans thanks to McCain-Feingold, and a lot thought that resources should be focused on specific winnable districts.

    Dean was right.

    But the thing is, you have to be careful about what your “10 province strategy” is about. If it’s just triangulation to try to win rural Alberta seats from the top down, you’ll lose. Sorry, but no. Fairly or not, the Liberals aren’t going to win those seats. You’ll just alienate people.

    Any sort of universal strategy like this has to be, like Dean’s, from the bottom up: you work on building and supporting riding associations across the country, and giving them the tools they need to be active in their communities and to have a real voice in the party as a whole.

    So, Scott, I think the most important thing here is to mercilessly excise anybody who uses the words “left” and “right” in relation to this strategy. It’s not about moving “left” or moving “right”. It’s about building from the bottom up.

    And Mark, it’s a political party. It’s important. Someone engaged in something as important as contending for governance is allowed to act like a “policy wonk”. Isn’t that how the other guy works, too?

  • JimmE

    In 1991 we held a leadership convention where? CAL-Effing-Gary! Winning all the seats in Canada was JC’s policy – how many seats did JC win? In Ontario the number was ALL of them. We even won two seats in Alberta! You’re either in the game or not.

  • Joseph

    Scott, you are right on the money about this. Liberals need to engage a whole nation strategy.

    I think it’s time for a lesson to all the liberals who think they are smart about how this played out in the US because I was there and you are making up facts to support your assertions.

    Your argument seems based in part in a belief that Liberals don’t have the money to compete in all provinces.

    Want to know something? The Democrats didn’t have the money either when they started their 50-state strategy that Dean ushered in to the dismay of many long-time Democratic strategists.


    As they began to devote attention and resources in states and areas long neglected, they began to raise money in those areas as well. The process fed on itself. In many cases it wasn’t even the money spent in the US “red states,” it was simply the willingness of the Democrats to engage the voters and their long suffering party infrastructures iin those regions and their efforts to make them a visible part of their strategy.

    I think people are creating reasons to be against a similar approach and attitude for the Liberal party in Canadas. But if you aren’t willing to engage and compete across the country, then you aren’t going to be a national party (for long).

    So for those rationalizing that it just isn’t possible to have a full province strategy, give your heads a shake and think about what you’re really saying.

    But don’t make up reasons that don’t exist to support your claim. Yes, the Liberal party needs to tackle the fund-raising issue head-on. But that can be part of an all-province strategy. It’s not an either/or proposition.

  • UWHabs

    I agree with you Scott. I know us Liberals need more than just a facelift to get us back to power.

    I think we need a 2-fold strategy – one part is the 308 riding strategy (well, we can maybe not worry too much about ridings like Wild Rose or Crowfoot), but at least a 10-province strategy, since there are ridings in Edmonton and Calgary that could be winnable). However, we also have to be real to the moment – we can’t afford a Conservative majority. Thus, our other plan should be to win back some seats that we should be winning. Seats like the 2 in Kitchener-Waterloo, and others in the 905.

    My view would be that in 1-2 years, we should be back over 100 seats, and be competitive in at least 170 ridings, so that in 3-4 years we will be able to win at least a strong minority, if not a majority.

  • Mark

    The malaise in this party started shortly after 1984. We’ve been propped up for far too long by a divided right and being the only federalist option in Quebec. It was only a matter of time before the other side got its act together, while we’ve been twenty years basking in the afterglow of hollow election victories which we won by default.
    Your post doesn’t capture the essence of the article, both Rob and Scott make very good points, as foten in agreement as not… but add me to the chorus of people that thinks that spending 18 months navel gazing in a room full of self-important reminiscent policy wonks is a waste of everybody’s time. Our biggest shortcomings at the moment are tactical and organizational. Canadians have no interest in us having a policy convention. They want to see us rebuild an electoral machine, capable of winning an election on merit.

  • Scott Reid? Former communications director Scott Reid? The Scott Reid who once said that Paul Martin was the wire brush that would scrub clean the stain on Canada’s integrity or some such claptrap? The Scott Reid who thought he’d score points on Stephen Harper by calling him Mr. Muzzle? Scott “beer and popcorn” Reid? *That* Scott Reid? Haven’t you people fired him yet?

    (That’s just in case you need a little more ammunition.)

  • You have to apply a reasoned implementation of it, though. As we are in a minority parliament, we have to prioritize ridings. There’s no way we can do a 308 riding initiative which will work in 18 months. Doing so would spread ourselves thin, and perhaps cost us ridings we could otherwise take.

    The 308 strategy tactically involves us keeping what we have and setting up to grab another 20-40 seats (concentrated on taking from the CONs), and then moving on to the rest.

    Our goals should be expressed along a time line. Just saying: In one year, we should be ready to increase out seat count by at least 20 (I’m for 40), mostly stealing from the CONs. In two years, we should be able to guarantee a Liberal minority, if not a weak majority. In 3-4 years, a solid majority.

  • Anonymous

    The difference between Obama and us is that his campaign is flush with cash and the Liberal Party is flat broke. The Democrats can afford to challenge a poorer, less popular and more divided GOP in its natural strongholds. We can’t. We need to focus all of our money and ressources on holding the seats we have and turning things around in 40 to 50 other ridings. That doesn’t mean the LPC should ignore the rest. We have been woefully deficient in terms of coming up and promoting policies dealing specifically with Western and Rural Canada beyond the green shift tax write offs. We should make an effort at that level and hope something coems of it. But the money and ressources should go to the key ridings, and be accompanied by an attempt to set up a national voter I.D. database as sophisticated as the one the Tories have, which would we could make thorough use of in the GOTV efforts in swing ridings.

    But I think a 308 strategy is ultimately just a slogan that can’t be backed up at practical level. We should focus on the ridings we can win, and shouldn’t rule the possibility of cutting side deals with the Greens or the Dippers, or at least making a point of running cheaper, weaker campaigns in ridings we can’t win but where a strong effort on our part will just split the vote and elect a Tory.

  • […] and changing how this party works organizationally and structurally. It goes back to what I said at this blog a couple of days ago, and it goes to what Dan Arnold said at his blog; what we have now in place […]

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