Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rebuilding the Big Red Machine

While a lot of Liberals are no doubt upset about losing last night, the party now has a golden opportunity to rebuild itself. With Harper only winning a minority, the timeline will need to be sped up, but I still think the party needs to use a three stage approach:

1. Leadership Race
2. Policy Conference
3. Fundraising and Riding Rebuilding

Since the Liberals can keep Harper afloat as long they want, I'd budget about two years for this, which would set us up for a leadership race this fall. If Martin wants to stay on as leader until then, then let him. If he wants to step aside and let Dion or Graham be the interim leader, that'd be acceptable too. The important thing is to start the leadership race soon, since the new leader needs to be the one who participates in the rebuilding of the party. Ideally, it will be a wide open race with 8 or 9 candidates which will generate excitement on the ground, and in the media. While it may be a bit naive to think so, I do hope this race will bring Liberals together, rather than tear them apart. It won't be decided on the first ballot so the key players will have to "play nice" with the other candidates and their supporters, in order to ensure their support on the second ballot. Warren Kinsella has said he will sit the race out, and I would hope that Herle and the Board take his lead and do likewise, to prevent old wounds from opening up. I also hope that the eventual winner will reach out to his (or her I suppose...) opponents afterwards, giving them and their supporters prominent positions in the party. Yes, there will be some blood spilled along the way, but with a common enemy now, I suspect things won't be as ugly as last time.

The second stage is the policy conference. The "Kingston Conference" of 1960 was considered a watershed moment for the Liberal Party and the Aylmer Conference in 1991 was the most recent version of this. Hopefully some new ideas will be put forward during the leadership race, but the Liberals need to go outside their ranks to get others. Hold a massive policy conference, for members and non-partisan thinkers, and use it to start work on the next election platform. Harper showed the value of an opposition party having a clear policy platform (as did the Red Book in 1993).

Finally, the party needs rebuilding on the ground. The new leader will have to suck it up and go to spaghetti dinner after spaghetti dinner in ridings across the country, to boost the morale of party members and volunteers. He'll also need to recruit star candidates and fundraise, two things which are a lot more difficult in opposition than in government. This party is terrible at fundraising and it's in a big hole financially right now. That's why it's important to look like a party on the move, and hopefully a new leader and a policy conference will do just that.

The Liberals need to resist the urge for a "quick fix" or the "Joe Clark scenario". Let Harper govern for at least two years while we get our act together. It's going to take a lot of work from people willing to put aside past differences and divisions in order to rebuild the Liberal Party. This party is in serious need of repair and the rebuilding starts today.


  • I have the following list of possible leaders on my blog:

    Belinda Stronach
    Joe Volpe
    Scott Brison
    John Manley
    Martin Cauchon
    Maurizio Bevilacqua
    Michael Ignatieff
    Frank McKenna
    Ken Dryden
    Brian Tobin
    Rob Edger

    The last name definately has an uphill battle. Do you have any preliminary thoughts on which potential leader would be best for the party (and country)?

    By Blogger robedger, at 1:58 AM  

  • How Surprised Would You Be to Discover Liberals May Have Stolen Seats and Cheated to Minimize their Losses in this Election?


    Liberals may have cheated in other ridings too and not just allegedly in Edmonton Centre where the margin was so great that Anne McLellan had to concede anyway.

    And then of course, there's still...

    By Anonymous Chris from Victoria, BC, at 2:07 AM  

  • If the Liberal debt is as large as we've heard ($33 million? and that was before the election, and before any leadership race), can the party really rebuild? Especially if the CPC again limits donations to $1000 per individual, and bans corporate and union donations outright?

    By Blogger RP., at 7:46 AM  

  • Regarding the policy convention, it would probably be a good idea if they can get a muzzle on the Young Liberals. They're the ones largely responsible for the BMD decision that damaged Canada-US relations, and they've got a lot of loopy ideas like legalizing prostitution and marijuana. When these people all grow up they're likely to find out that they're actually NDP supporters, but in the meantime, they've got to be reeled in and can't be given the same level of power within the party that they enjoyed under Martin.

    By Blogger RGM, at 9:06 AM  

  • The Liberals need to find something they actually believe in. For my lifetime, (at least since 1979 when I started paying attention to politics), the Liberals have only ever really been, as John Duffy says, "the party of government". Trudeau may have had a vision when he came in, but he had none after 1980, and Turner, Chretien, and Martin never did. Sure, Turner believed in something in 1988, but it was purely negative. The NDP believes that people are weak and that government should protect them. The Conservatives believe that people are capable, and should make their own decisions. These attitudes manifest themselves in policy. The Liberals seem to believe that people are weak and so the Liberals are entitled to rule over them. This is not an attitude which can lead to regeneration, even if a disturbing number of Canadians still agree with it.

    By Anonymous MarkC, at 9:58 AM  

  • MarkC, the Liberals believe that we are stronger together, and we can build a better world together. These may be trite phrases in passing, but they are at the basis of all liberalists everywhere.

    For what it's worth, the Conservatives are also liberalists, it's just that they prefer systems of mutual exclusivity (e.g. the free market), whereby individuals compete fairly, whereas Liberals prefer systems of rational cooperation, built around institutionalized organizations.

    The child care policy is a great example of that difference.

    The NDP are social democrats. They believe that the strong have a duty to build better societies to help the weak. This is a compassionate philosophy, and it is similar in practice to the Liberal philosophy of building institutionalized organizations. However, where the Liberals are interested in a full spectrum of institutions, including those that enable people to be stronger than others (e.g. capitalism), the NDP focuses only on those that help the down trodden.

    Traditionally, social democrats survive and thrive in democracies because there are many more poor people than rich people, and the poor see no path to being rich. Thus, labour movements tend to support social democrats.

    In Canada, there are few very weak people. Unionization has made most labour middle class. Many of the lower class want the dignity, freedom, and power of building themselves up into middle class without relying on the government, and they can see an easy way to get there (e.g. The Wealthy Barber), so they prefer Liberal or Conservative policies.

    This forces the NDP to find other weak people, which these days tends to either be socially weak people (the oppressed like aboriginals, immigrants, and homosexuals) or abstract weak entities like the environment.

    Short of the environment, all three of those groups would also like to build themselves up, so they would also go Liberal or Conservative. The NDP only own the environment file, and frankly, less than 5% of the population cares enough about it to make it a ballot issue (the Green party mostly gets protest votes, which is why those votes swung almost entirely to the Conservatives in polls without the Green as an option).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:16 AM  

  • Well, the Liberals are going to get the same result in a leadership race if "the board" is involved. They just have to get the Herle and Earnscliffe crowd out of there.

    I don't know who will oversee the leadership convention. The current Liberal executive is too tainted, right through to regions and ridings.

    What a legacy of "democratic deficit" Martin has left his party.

    By Anonymous Erik Sorenson, at 11:40 AM  

  • The Liberals need someone that help repair the anti-americanism within the party.

    How about Michael Moore? He's big and cuddly. Give him an honourary Canadian citizenship since he always like to tell people of Canada how they should vote.

    By Blogger Fighting for Democracy, at 1:28 PM  

  • Michael Moore is why I hate America.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:21 PM  

  • Reverse the order of events and that could be the ticket.

    Serious party reform and financial issues immediately in early to mid 2006. Policy Convention in Fall 2006, Leadership in June 2007. Election in 2008

    By Anonymous SAW, at 5:42 PM  

  • The liberals are cheaters and I have no doubts they cheated but hopefully Harper will be able to put some checks in place to prevent this in the future. I worked once on a liberal campaign and they cheated like mad with the immigrant vote. SOmetimes there were 30 people at the same address. It was a shock to me and hence I no longer worked or voted for them. I have worked many many conservative campaigns and never seen anything like that. It is almost inbred. Oh well I know you liberals won't buy that but "I am Not making it Up" It is the truth. I am quite sure Landslide Annie has been cheating every election. I detest anything about the liberals in Ottawa and will NEVER vote for them again I don't care who is the leader.

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