Babel’s bewildered newbie MPP.

Some of the most surprised Liberal partisans in the recent Ontario election were here in Babel. Nobody, including the Liberal candidate, expected her to win the election. She obviously thought she was the traditional sacrificial lamb. She had been thrown into the fray after the election had been called and did not even have to meet the riding supporters at an uncontested nominating convention.

While there has been some bad blood between the Liberal federal and provincial riding associations, we would all have got behind the candidate just to stick it to the Conservative incumbent. We are also facing a major challenge next year with two new federal ridings and we need the campaigning practice and could use the provincial campaign as a run-up. That did not happen because of the ineptness of the local Whigs who run the provincial association.

But even Babel-on-the-Bay was caught flat-footed when we realized why the “sacrificial” candidate was going to win. The problem with this riding is mainly the south end of Barrie where much of the new housing has been built. Over the past decade, it has brought in more than 40,000 new voters with whom it is extremely hard to communicate. Many of these people head towards Toronto every working day and they have little loyalty, interest or involvement in their community.

What you have to do to overcome the communications problem is a very strong ground game. It means you need hundreds of trained and motivated canvassers, a carefully crafted build-up of literature, good feedback and analysis and a very strong get-out-the-vote program for both advance polls and election day. Babel does not see campaigns such as that very often. The last effort that came close was a mayoralty campaign four years ago (that was won easily), it just did not fit the Babel mould.

What we missed in dismissing Babel’s chances of being won by a Liberal this time was the lack of an occupation analysis in the south end of town. We knew from personal canvassing experience that there quite a few nurses, teachers and other civil servants living there but it was not until we were into the campaign that Conservative Leader Timmy Hudak made his colossal gaff in saying he would get rid of 100,000 provincial employees. Nobody in our local Liberal campaign realized that he had just given a million civil servants good reason to vote against him. Luckily there were enough here in Babel to defeat the incumbent Conservative MPP. They did not need Liberals urging them to get out and vote.

We would congratulate our new MPP but we have never had the opportunity to meet her.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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