OTTAWA – If many hands make light work, Liberals in Atlantic Canada, southern Ontario and parts of Vancouver may have proportionally fewer doors to knock during the 2015 federal election.
But those in Alberta and Quebec could find themselves without backup during the electoral ground war.
As supporters turned out to vote in the leadership convention that saw Justin Trudeau elected Liberal leader, they revealed where the party may find foot soldiers for the next election – and where it will need to do some serious recruiting.
Perhaps not surprisingly, ridings with the fewest Liberal members were also most likely to be held by other parties.
Riding by riding analysis shows the ratio of voters to Liberal Party supporters to voters is highest in Atlantic Canada, the National Capital Region and a smattering of other ridings in Ontario.
Metro Vancouver was also fairly strong, but Vancouver Quadra, represented by leadership candidate Joyce Murray, was the only riding west of Kenora to appear in the top ten.
In large swathes of the country – including Quebec and the Prairies – Liberal supporters barely register.
Only three ridings in La Belle Province have more than one Liberal supporter for every 200 voters. All of them – Westmount-Ville-Marie, Lac-Saint-Louis and Trudeau’s Papineau – are held by Liberal MPs.
Parties rely on members and volunteers to doorknock, man phone lines, solicit donations and promote platforms during election campaigns – work that can make or break an election.
The Liberals’ decision to open its leadership campaign to non-members for the first time expanded the pool of potential volunteers to 127,000 supporters from 50,000 registered members – provided the party keeps them engaged until 2015.
Matthew Certisomo, the party’s membership secretary, said the data will help the party build its “critically important” ground game.
“The ground game can’t be forgotten,” he said. “It’s everything from putting signs up, to canvassing, to holding events for the local candidate, to marking lists, to hosting events when the leader comes into town.”
Certosimo says that army of supporters will also help collect the feedback needed to inform election-winning policy.
Along with starting a campaign to entice supporters to become full-fledged members, the party plans to team up the strong ridings with weaker ones in the same province or region to build capacity across the country. Many of the strong ridings are those already represented by Liberal MPs or have been in the recent past.
Comparing the Liberal numbers to the other official national political parties is difficult, not just because this is the only party to allow non-members to vote for the leader.
The New Democratic Party wouldn’t say how many people per riding voted in the 2011 leadership campaign that elected Tom Mulcair. At the time of the campaign, the party boasted 128,351 members –doubles the official membership of the Liberal party.
The Conservatives have not had a leadership convention since 2004 when Harper became the first leader of the newly merged Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives through a 100-point-per-riding association system.
Conservative Party spokesman Fred Delorey refused to say how many members the party has.
“We don’t comment on internal party matters such as membership numbers,” he said in an email.