Samara, a non-profit that advocates for greater democratic participation, has tracked these non-voters. Some don’t ever vote – saying they don’t know anything about politics and aren’t interested in finding out – and some are “intermittent non-voters,” who only vote now and then.
But in the United States, Barack Obama galvanized millennials in ways never before seen. They were a vital cohort in both his 2008 and 2012 victories. And here in Canada, Justin Trudeau brings young people out by the hundreds whenever he visits a school or campus.
Is Mr. Trudeau the new Obama, able to finally galvanize the millennial vote? If he or any other politician wants to be, says Alison Loat, Samara’s executive director, then the key is direct communication.
“The engagement imperative is high” is how she puts it. A reluctant voter is more likely to come out if a friend or other peer encourages her. Success, then, depends on building a broad and deep voter contact network specifically targeted to millennials – reaching them through social media and direct contact.
And it has to begin now. Depth and breadth of engagement over time matters more than last-minute intensity, when recruiting reluctant voters, Ms. Loat says.
Since the days of Lester Pearson, the Liberals have believed, and proven, that they could govern without much support from the West. But no one can write the West off anymore.
The 2011 census revealed that there are now more Canadians living in the four Western provinces than in Quebec and Atlantic Canada combined. British Columbia and Alberta will each get six additional seats in the next Parliament. You want a quick and easy answer for why the Liberals are now the third party in the House of Commons? They hold only four seats west of Ontario.
Anne McLellan, the former Liberal cabinet minister who held her Edmonton riding through four elections before being finally swept away by the Conservatives in 2006, has high hopes that Mr. Trudeau will revive the party in the West, or at least parts of it.
Yes, the Trudeau name draws few votes in Alberta – the memory of the National Energy Program still rankles – and Mr. Trudeau’s comments in 2010 that “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda” didn’t help.
But the Sinclair name – his mother Margaret came from a storied political family – still means something in British Columbia, she observes. And Mr. Trudeau himself lived and worked in the province.
“I think British Columbia might be different than the three Prairie provinces,” she believes.
As for those Prairie provinces, success depends on convincing voters that Mr. Trudeau is more committed to resource development than the NDP, while being more environmentally responsible than the Conservatives.
The Liberal Western strategy is to take all that, add the Trudeau charisma, and hope for the best.
NEW BRUNSWICK RESIDENTS
Think of New Brunswick as the bellwether province.
Atlantic Canada, with its strongly consensual political tradition, remains the last bastion for the Liberal Party, which took three of Prince Edward Island’s four seats, four of seven in Newfoundland and Labrador (with a by-election win in Labrador expected in a few weeks) and four of 11 (the Tories took four and the NDP three) in Nova Scotia.
But in New Brunswick, the Liberals took only one of 10 seats, with the Conservatives sweeping eight and the NDP grabbing one.
Donald Wright, a political scientist at University of New Brunswick, doesn’t think there is anything that special about the province. The Liberals, he believes, simply had weak candidates and bad luck with vote splits.
“Clearly, if the Liberals are to have any luck in this province, they are going to have to find high-profile local notables” to run for the party, he says.
But Mr. Trudeau has vowed that all 338 ridings will have open nomination contests. Incumbents will have to defend their own seats, and there will be no more of the old practice of imposing high-profile candidates on reluctant riding associations. (Not that high-profile candidates are in an abundance in any case.) If the Liberals attract strong candidates to run in New Brunswick’s nine unheld seats, backed by well-organized and well-funded riding associations that are able to mobilize large teams of volunteers who are able to effectively target and get out the vote, then the Liberals will do well in that province in the next election.
And if they are able to do all that in New Brunswick, then it probably signals that the party is on the rebound elsewhere.
For the Liberals, as New Brunswick goes, so goes the nation.