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Growing tensions between red and blue Tories could affect 2015 election

Toronto Star national affairs columnist Chantal Hébert writes about the growing tensions between red and blue Tories.

She comments, “If there ever was a time when Harper could ill afford to ostracize his progressive wing, it is now. It was not diehard Liberals or committed New Democrats who initially denied Harper a government in 2004 or who relented and gave him a majority in 2011, but rather the middle-of-the road voters who regularly trade the label of a blue Liberal for that of a red Tory. Those chameleon voters have the power to take power out of Conservative hands in 2015 and the early indication is that a critical number of them are growing more comfortable with Justin Trudeau than with Harper’s true-blue Conservatives.”

Hébert adds, “It may be that government strategists are so blinded by the aura of the Liberal leader’s name or so comforted by the prospect of a war of attrition between his party and the NDP in the next election that they fail to see that Trudeau’s preferred path to power runs through their own soft left flank.”

“To beat the New Democrats the Liberal leader is intent on winning over the centre-right voters who have held the balance of power between his party and Harper’s in the past. Two recent byelections suggest that it could work. In Manitoba’s Brandon—Souris last fall the Liberal vote increased nine-fold and the party lost narrowly to the incumbent Conservatives. A year before in Calgary Centre, only 4 percentage points separated the winning Conservative score from that of the Liberals. The Liberals almost doubled their share of the vote from the 2011 election while the Conservatives lost 20 points. Based on past Conservative performance in those ridings, neither would have made the list of most winnable Liberal seats in a general election.”

“There are plenty of ridings across the country where a smaller vote swing would bring a seat in the Liberal column.”

She concludes, “One of Harper’s signature achievements has been to keep the federal Conservative party whole for a successful decade. But over that time the fracture between the former Tories and their Reform rivals has not fully healed. The disaffection of scores of 2011 supporters of the Conservative party as shown in the polls month after month is a symptom of that failure. Those lost voters are bolstering the number (now a majority) of those who feel the country is headed in the wrong direction.”

The next federal election is scheduled for October 19, 2015.

Further reading
Support for Harper government dropping sharply Harper to push CETA, Northern Gateway prior to fall ’14 decision about election
Five policy questions Justin Trudeau needs to answer by Maude Barlow
For two years, Conservatives will be all about the 10 per cent by Jeffrey Simpson