Two things Republicans could have learned from the Harper Conservatives

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

For the past year, at least, we've all read the stories coming from the United States suggesting that the Republicans should take a page from the Harper Conservatives' play book with regards to economic policy.

Right leaning conservatives with Harper-envy touted policies such as lower corporate taxes and budget cuts — 'just like in Canada' — as a path to the White House.

Maybe they should have done that.

But they also should have picked-up on a couple of other ideas from the Tories:

Moderate social policies

If you take a detailed look at the U.S. electoral map, you'll see a similar Democrat/Republican urban/rural divide.

With a diminishing rural population, the only way the Republicans are going to get back into the White House is if they attract more of the urban vote.

Prior to the 2011 election, the Harper Tories faced the same difficulties.

According to John Duffy, an adviser to former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, Canada had a similar urban/rural dichotomy.

"Ever since the right united, the biggest divide in Canadian politics has been urban and rural, and the Conservatives have dominated rural English Canada," he told the National Post in April 2011.

"Conservatives actually export their talent into non-urban Canada in order to give them a fighting chance at winning."

In the subsequent May 2011 election, however, the Conservatives did win seats in urban areas in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

They did this, in part, by explicitly closing the door on policy changes with regards to same-sex marriage and abortion. It was a subtle political strategy that is supported by data which shows city dwellers tend to be more progressive than rural folk.

In a recent interview with the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, social scientist Loleen Berdahl said that while most rural dwellers in Canada support things like gay marriage and abortion rights, levels of support there are lower than in urban centres.

The Republicans are going to have to do the same thing as the Conservatives. To get the urban vote, they're going to have veer towards the political centre on social policy.

Go after the ethnic vote

Earlier this month, the Globe and Mail reported that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was advising UK prime minister David Cameron on how to win ethnic votes. The Republicans need the same advice.

Kenney is credited with delivering the 'ethnic vote' to the Conservative party in the last election 'by criss-crossing the country from 2009 to 2011 with the sole purpose of wooing visible minority voters over to the Conservative tent.

In the U.S., according to the Huffington Post, Obama won Tuesday's election in large part because of the Latino population who supported the democrats by almost a 4:1 ratio.

"The country is becoming more diverse in general, with a growing Latino population and an even faster-growing Asian population," notes the article.

"Those demographic changes will spell trouble for the Republican Party if it remains on in its current trajectory."

The Republicans need a Jason Kenney.