POLITICS
07/26/2011 08:42 EDT | Updated 09/25/2011 05:12 EDT

Bob Rae Goes Looking For 2.2 Million Missing Liberal Party Voters

CP File

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae is on a cross-country tour in a quest to rebuild the party.

Considering the disastrous results of the last election, it could be a long trip.

Since the 2004 federal election under Paul Martin, the Liberal Party has lost about 2.2 million votes - despite the fact that nearly 1.2 million more Canadians cast a ballot this past May than they did seven years ago.

The Liberal Party has bled votes in every part of the country when you compare the most recent campaign with that of 2004. The hemorrhage was worst in western Canada and in Quebec, where the party lost roughly half or more of its vote.

But if Bob Rae is to rebuild his party's relationship with Canadians, where should he start? Where does he have the most work to do?

Certainly not out east. Though the Liberals lost about 140,000 votes between 2004 and 2011 in the four Atlantic provinces, voters there have remained relatively loyal. The Liberals took only 14 per cent fewer votes in Newfoundland & Labrador than they did in 2004, while in PEI and Nova Scotia that proportion was at 20 and 25 per cent, respectively.

But the Liberals lost a huge proportion of their votes in other parts of the country - primarily in Quebec and the West.

The rural parts of western Canada did not elect any Liberal MPs in 2004, but did send a decent amount of votes their way. Seven years later, support plummeted by between 77 per cent in northern Saskatchewan to 60 per cent in rural Alberta. Liberal support has dropped 64 per cent in Edmonton and 66 per cent on Vancouver Island, parts of western Canada that historically sent Liberals to Ottawa.

In Quebec, the Liberals have virtually disappeared from the predominantly French-speaking parts of the province. Grit support has dropped by 59 per cent in central Quebec, 65 per cent in Quebec City, 66 per cent in the Eastern Townships, and 83 per cent in the Saguenay and Côte-Nord regions. They have also lost more than half of the votes they had in 2004 in eastern and western Quebec and the Montérégie region south of Montreal.

Even on the island itself the Liberals are down between 38 and 47 per cent. Western Montreal, which handed nearly a quarter of a million votes to the Liberals in 2004, sent less than 130,000 their way on May 2.

Ontario has not abandoned the Liberals to the same extent, though support is down across the board. The party has lost more than half of its former support in central, southwestern, and northern Ontario. If you exclude the Atlantic provinces, however, the three regions in which the Liberals lost the smallest proportion of their support are in Ontario: 32 per cent in Toronto, 22 per cent in Brampton, Mississauga, and Oakville, and only 18 per cent in Ottawa.

Despite the voter pool having grown over the last seven years, Rae's party has not increased its support in any part of the country. The number of vanished Liberal votes is in the six digits in each of Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta. The party is hardly present outside of the country's four biggest cities and is a shadow of its former self in the rural parts of Quebec and western Canada.

Clearly, Bob Rae's tour needs many stops.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.