After nearly seven decades of coming up short with South Surrey-White Rock voters, the Liberal Party of Canada is certainly treating next week’s federal byelection like uncharted territory.
So much so, that if the Conservative Party of Canada doesn’t decisively hand the Liberals yet another defeat here, members of the incumbent party will no doubt be looking for someone to blame: likely media coverage, a selfie-loving prime minister, a hyper-popular opponent and a fickle electorate that would prefer a popularity contest over actual issues.
Solely based on historical voting records, this would send shockwaves to Ottawa.
But if change is indeed in the air – and the Liberals eke out a victory in a riding whose voters have not been remotely kind to the party since the 1949 general election, when it was a portion of the massive New Westminster constituency – the Conservatives, to be truly constructive, would have to look within. Campaigners would have to ask themselves how they effectively took control of the narrative throughout this brief month-long byelection period, made possible only by the actions of one of their own, former MP Dianne Watts.
Certainly the Conservatives have tried to paint the Liberals – specifically their publicity-magnet prime minister – as bad for our country. Instead, they should try harder to paint themselves as good for it.
After all, the Conservatives have a long record to campaign on, a virtually uninterrupted one that began here with career-long backbencher Benno Friesen capturing the Progressive Conservative vote in the early-’70s, followed by Reformer/Canadian Alliance/Conservative Val Meredith in the early-’90s, then four-term Conservative Russ Hiebert in the early-’00s, right up to 2015, when the so-called “Harper Government” proved so popular with this riding that voters eschewed the Liberals’ near-sweep in Surrey and selected eventual half-termer Watts to the role of MP.
Now, under new leadership, the Conservatives have decided to go with a former Delta-Richmond MP and federal cabinet minister who was selected from among “at least” seven presumably credible candidates.
As for the Tories’ take on Trudeau’s Liberals, voters have had two years to decide whether they share their criticisms and feel they’re worse off than when the Conservatives were in power. Or not.
If they don’t – and the Conservatives don’t win handily in this riding Dec. 11 – the party simply must look beyond the public being enthralled by a photobombing prime minister. They should look at their own image.