Nickel Belt Liberals face uphill battle - Adam Toews

By: Guest Columnist

 | Nov 15, 2012 - 10:11 AM |
Voters who are not politically inclined with the NDP have reason to worry about the existence of the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) in the Nickel Belt electoral district.

Part of their trouble is due to the sharp decline in the popularity of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, as well as changes within the party’s philosophy at the provincial level.

Locally, the party focused on Sudbury’s South End, ignoring communities such as Alban, Azilda, Capreol, Chelmsford, Hanmer and Val Caron, all of which are key paths for the OLP’s success in Nickel Belt.

This is in part due to the party’s drive to solicit votes from educated affluent middle class voters, a stark departure from the party’s populist roots.

As outsiders could see, the campaign shifted away from the traditional areas of support within the riding.

Toronto was interested in recruiting an educated middle-class membership base who would not only support but could afford the party’s green energy and education policies.

This drift from the populist roots of the party started some years ago and gradually alienated supporters who were blue collar, causing an exodus to the NDP in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Clear Grit Party, the forerunner of the OLP, was originally a populist movement which is by today’s standards closer to the Ontario PC Party and should remind the OLP that Ontario politics are grassroots.

The following data, taken from Elections Ontario, shows the breakdown of the popular vote from 2007 to 2011 in five key communities for the OLP, all of which show substantial losses for the OLP in Nickel Belt.

In Azilda, the Liberals earned 43.4 per cent of the vote in 2007, and 26.5 per cent in 2011, showing a 16.9 per cent loss. In Capreol, the Liberals earned 25.1 per cent of the vote in 2007, and 17.7 per cent in 2011, showing a 7.4 per cent loss.

In Chelmsford, the Liberals earned 33.5 per cent of the vote in 2007, and 22.5 per cent in 2011, showing a 11 per cent loss.

In Hanmer, the Liberals earned 38.4 per cent of the vote in 2007, and 23.3 pe rcent in 2007, showing a 15.1 per cent loss. In Val Caron, the Liberals earned 41.1 per cent of the vote in 2007, and 24.8 per cent in 2011, showing a 16.6 per cent loss.

The popular vote for the Liberals in Nickel Belt has sunk from 38.63 per cent in 2003 to 24.22 per cent in 2011.

At the same time, NDP support has increased from 41.95 per cent in 1999 to 54.86 per cent in 2011. The Progressive Conservatives earned 29.30 per cent of the vote in 1999, 13.49 per cent in 2003, 10.29 per cent in 2007 and 18.29 per cent in 2011.

As you can see from the data, the Ontario Liberals lost the popular vote in these communities to the benefit of the NDP and the Conservatives.

This data should alarm voters of Nickel Belt who are not ideologically aligned with the NDP. It serves as a warning to the provincial Liberals. They should provide policy the public wants and can afford or suffer at the polls.

In addition to the local association’s troubles, the data also show the electorate distancing themselves from green politics.

The Green Energy Act R.S.O. 2009, which was passed by the McGuinty government, caused serious financial heartache for Northern Ontario residents and is yet another reason for the negative impact on the Nickel Belt PLA’s performance.

In general, political parties who aligned themselves with green policies suffered at the polls in the 2011 election.

At a glance, one can see both the Green Party of Ontario and the Liberal Party of Ontario took systemic losses on election day due to the unpopularity of their platforms in Nickel Belt.

In the next election, which will most likely be announced after Feb. 25, 2013 — the date of the OLP Leadership Convention — voters will decide if the OLP’s losses in Nickel Belt are permanent.

Adam Toews is a director on the Nickel Belt Federal Liberal Association’s board. 

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