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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Canadian Tories' Lessons for the GOP

Michael Barone writes of what the Canadian Conservatives' recent triumph can teach their counterparts south of the border:

The Conservatives' triumph offers a couple of lessons that may be relevant to U.S. Republicans. One is that smaller government policies, far from being political poison, are actually vote-winners.

The second is that a center-right party can win immigrant votes. Conservatives won 35 of 54 seats in metro Toronto, many heavy with immigrants. One tactic that seems to have worked was to circulate videos of Indian- and Chinese-Canadian Conservative candidates appealing for votes in their native tongues.

The simple message is that this is a party that likes and respects you. Republicans could do something similar, with Sen. Marco Rubio, Govs. Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Allen West, Tim Scott and Quico Canseco, all elected in 2010.

More details, from last Tuesday's Globe and Mail:

Fifteen cups of tea. That’s how the election was won.

In one day during the 2011 election campaign, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney attended 15 different chai parties hosted by Indo-Canadian voters in Brampton West, Ont. That’s just a snapshot of his epic cross-Canada campaigning, but it’s indicative of the stamina and persistence of the Conservative point man for ethnic communities.

He and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have transformed their party from one that was perceived as hostile to new Canadians to one that is now home to a great many immigrant voters and Members of Parliament.

The Conservative majority was won primarily in the suburban ridings of the 905 area code and in the City of Toronto. Of the 18 seats they gained in that region, 14 are more than 45 per cent immigrant, and most would not long ago have been considered un-winnable for the Conservatives.

The transformation of the Conservative party began in 2006 when Mr. Kenney embarked on a cross-country listening tour, engaging ethnic community leaders who previously felt repelled by the party. He asked what government could do for them. Then he initiated a series of symbolic gestures designed to build relationships, such as the apology for the Chinese Head Tax and cutting the immigrant landing fee.

A Conservative source said there was a deliberate strategy to deliver on the issues that mattered to these communities, but not instantly. That way they could create a constituency of “askers,” motivated leaders who could be converted to supporters.