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What the GOP Can Learn From Canada's Conservatives

By Michael Barone - May 9, 2011

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The third huge development is the humiliating third-place finish of the Liberal Party, the pre-eminent party in Canada since its first election in 1867. Liberals headed governments for 70 years in the 20th century and have provided most of Canada's well known prime ministers -- Wilfrid Laurier, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson and Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

They have been more of a nationalist, opportunistic party than a left-wing one. Public spending ballooned during Trudeau's nearly 20 years in power, but the Liberals cut back spending sharply in the 1990s, when Canada faced a fiscal crisis very much like the one the United States faces today.

Liberals long boasted that they were the only party with backing in both English- and French-speaking Canada. Now they have little backing in either one.

They elected only 34 members of Parliament, and their leader, Michael Ignatieff, lost his own seat. Liberals hold sway now only in central Toronto, where Canadian media are concentrated, in Anglophone Montreal and in the economically lagging Atlantic provinces.

The Conservatives' triumph offers a couple of lessons that may be relevant to U.S. Republicans. One is that smaller government policies, far from being political poison, are actually vote-winners.

The second is that a center-right party can win immigrant votes. Conservatives won 35 of 54 seats in metro Toronto, many heavy with immigrants. One tactic that seems to have worked was to circulate videos of Indian- and Chinese-Canadian Conservative candidates appealing for votes in their native tongues.

The simple message is that this is a party that likes and respects you. Republicans could do something similar, with Sen. Marco Rubio, Govs. Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, and Reps. Allen West, Tim Scott and Quico Canseco, all elected in 2010.

So Canada has moved from a four-party politics rooted in its own special history to a two-party politics more similar to ours. Nothing boring about that.

 

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Michael Barone is Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner, co-author of The Almanac of American Politics and a contributor to Fox News.

Copyright 2011, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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