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Friday, December 05, 2008

At long last, the Harris Grits come loose

Many Canadians have been confused about Stephen Harper - in particular his political objectives.  Not the majority - everyone knows he wants one of those - but how he intended to do it.

From the moment he became leader of the CA, Harper has been trying to pry loose what I (and, I must confess, I alone) called the "Harris Grits" - Ontarians who voted Liberal in 1993, 1997, and 2000, while electing Mike Harris in 1995 and 1999. Granted, these voters probably weren't supporting Ernie Eves or John Tory, but a quick comparison of those two to Harris should make it clear why that happened.

Anyhow, if you look at Harper's attempts to defuse separatism in Quebec, both before and after the 2006 election, it is all designed to ease these Ontarians' fears about the country coming apart, which could very well be the only reason they voted Liberal at the federal level. This has been overshadowed as of late by the drama of Conservative support in Quebec going up, down, and sideways, but even so, more Tory voters in Quebec still meant more Harris Grits coming loose in Ontario.

This also explains, at least in part, Harper's virulent reaction to the coalition. He knows that he not only speaks for frustrated Conservative voters, but also for those Ontarians for whom the very notion of letting the Bloc anywhere near power is an anathema.

Well, it turns out the LNB deal may have finally pried the Harris Grits loose. Both Ipsos and Ekos have the CPC at slightly higher numbers in Ontario than in British Columbia.  If that actually held up in an election, the Liberal caucus in Ontario would be cut in half.

Folks, the coalition is dead.

Now, the Liberals could elect a new leader and pray that voters (particularly the Harris Grits) put this ugly mess behind them. However, given that all three major candidates are on record endorsing this (Iggy's subsequent whispers and leaks notwithstanding), I doubt it.

Even if the Harris ex-Grits are not true blue yet, they are now at least willing to consider it (and more importantly, willing to tell a pollster). A pillar of federal Liberal support just crumbled.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on December 5, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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And now that Bob Rae seems to be staging a coup within a coup and grabbing control of the Liberal party, those Harris Grits are more likely than ever to stick with the Tories.

I think we can look forward to open civil war in the Liberal party over the next couple of months at least, and perhaps for the next few years.

Posted by: Dennis | 2008-12-05 8:14:39 AM

So are the Harris Grits becoming Tory's or is the Conservative party moving far enough left to be a replacement for the Liberals who have gone "over the edge" left? The Conservatives may be the best alternative we have...I just wish they were actually conservative.

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-05 8:24:22 AM

Were I a Conservative, I would probably qualify the willingness of Ontario voters to consider becoming "true blue" Conservatives more important than their willingness to tell a pollster. Talk is cheap, baby!

Posted by: Janet Neilson | 2008-12-05 9:15:07 AM

"Roughly half of his party's seats came from the more affluent regions of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), especially the suburban belt surrounding Metro Toronto, often called the '905' for its telephone area code."

The erosion in these regions were already evident by 1999. Demographics is destiny and there is no way Harper will erode the Liberal base in the GTA. Mass immigration of visible minorities from 1995 to 2008 ensures it. The coalition can be broken into a thousand pieces and it won't change anything.

In light of that fact, why did Harper go scorched earth in Quebec by targeting Quebec 'separatists' (or 'sovereigntists' when Harper's speaking French)? This is simply alienating French-speaking Quebecers in general, not just separatists. How's anything going to change if there's an election in the new year? Harper now faces being returned with a smaller minority than he currently holds. How is the coalition dead?

Posted by: DJ | 2008-12-05 4:00:38 PM

Ontarians are a pretty common sense bunch. When they see liberals trying to suck and blow at the same time they know there is something wrong. Economic stability does not come from having three Prime Ministers in the span of five months which is what Dion promised in his address to the nation.

"Let me be Prime Minister and I promise to leave by May 2009" is not the best way to sell your longterm economic plan to a nation waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Posted by: Robert | 2008-12-05 11:41:02 PM

Actually, DJ, in many respects immigrants are more conservative (read: less "progressive) than natural-born Torontoites. It may be that as they become more affluent and influential they will be more inclined to protect what is theirs. As you say, demographics is destiny. And demographics includes the phenomenon of ageing and the rightward drift in attitudes that accompanies it.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-12-07 10:58:13 PM

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