The Regional Decline of a National Party: Liberals on the Prairies
Published: August 1981© 1981
208 Pages, 6.20 x 9.25 x 0.35 in
During the past twenty years, the Liberal party has shown a marked failure to hold a place in the hearts and minds of the voters of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Professor Smith here argues convincingly that the party is largely the author of its own downfall through insensitivity to regional concerns and ignorance of the implications of its centralizing tendencies.
Smith views the reforms which helped restore the Liberals to federal power after defeat in 1957 as a primary cause of the party’s continuing poor electoral performance in the region. He chronicles that shift from a political structure dominated by strong provincial spokesmen like Gardner and Garson to the reorganized federal Liberal party, which emphasizes control from national headquarters and favours a more scientific approach, relying on opinion polls, ad agencies, and campaign colleges for candidates.
The result has been a decline in voter support and a lack of regional participation in party councils – and the adoption by the party of policies unacceptable to the West. The west thus has come to perceive the Liberal party as dominated by eastern Canada and preoccupied with the problem of Quebec separatism. The consequences have become increasingly evident at election times.