Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Remember the heartlands

After moving to the centre of the universe, aka Toronto, a year ago I’ve been back in B.C. this week, visiting family in a rural riding in British Columbia. And it reminds me of the urban/rural divide, and of an opportunity the leadership candidates are missing.

Speaking to my Liberal friends here about the leadership, nearly every one at this point is still sitting on the fence. There just isn’t a lot of interest of excitement about the leadership race out here, even among the party diehards.

I think many are waiting for a little attention from some of the candidates, or any of the candidates. And I don’t mean a phone call, but an actual visit to the riding. There’s a reason door knocking in a general election campaign is so important: many people will still vote for the candidate that came to their door and talked to them, that personal contact means a lot.

Each riding elects the same number of delegates to the leadership convention, and you can bet it’s a hell of a lot harder to get a delegate spot in a major city than it is in a rural riding. In the same way, it’s also way easier for a campaign to get a delegate elected in a rural riding. It takes a lot fewer votes to elect your slate in a riding with a few hundred members than it does in a riding with thousands.

And strategy aside, I think the leadership candidates and the party would benefit from getting out of the cities and into the heartlands, and being exposed to the issues and concerns of rural Canadians, and rural Liberals.

I hope that, certainly once the House adjourns for the summer, the leadership candidates will venture out of the cities and start to visit more rural ridings across Canada, and meet with rural Liberals and rural Canadians.

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