Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Your Mark...

So I was asked to pen a short piece for The Mark a few weeks ago on how to fix the Liberal Party. I foolishly overlooked the idea of blowing up the party as a solution, suggesting instead that the Liberals need to expand their support base outside of the GTA.

The full article can be read here.

14 Comments:

  • When does your book come out?

    Don't make a liar of me now.

    By Blogger James Bowie, at 10:13 AM  

  • I'll print this out and give it to my Liberal in-laws. I have been telling this for years. They think like many Liberals, the problem is the leader and they have to do is dump Martin, I mean Dion, I mean Ignatieff and they'll win. I try to tell them that the Liberals give up too much of the electoral map before an election begins. I am glad to see a Liberal who realizes this.

    By Anonymous Political Staples, at 10:42 AM  

  • Dream on CG.
    What's good for the West is seen as bad for Quebec.
    The LPC will never ever do anything that your Quebec MPs don't like.

    Remember in the 2008 coalition agreement, to get the BLOCs support Liberals agreed to not giving the West more seats?

    And your leader is fence sitting on it that legislation, again.

    Shutting down the oilsands with enviro legislation,
    tax hikes and structural deficit inducing new social programs ... non-starters in the West.

    And we out West have no doubt, due to decades of experience,
    that the Liberals will ALWAYS use us as a pawn to gain favour in the East.

    By Blogger wilson, at 11:18 AM  

  • wilson,

    You make it sound as if the West are run by a bunch of Ron Pauls, when in fact its run by several Rick Perrys.

    I don't get why people think the West is so radically different than the rest of the country. I mean, sure, the concerns and the ideas are pretty varied from that of Central and Atlantic Canada, but not so much that you're somehow a "new culture."

    The West doesn't like social spending? Tell that to the people who voted in the many various NDP governments, and half of the PC governments in Alberta.

    They don't like oil sands related enviro legislation? Bullshit! I've seen movements out West aimed specifically at dealing with this stuff.

    Tax hikes? Again, Dippers, PCs and Liberals - they all vote them in and like Ontario, or Nova Scotia, or Quebec, they get angry at the tax rises.

    And to note, there has never been a current LPC MP that said, "the West doesn't need any more MPs." Even the Quebec legislators who push to make it 23.1% of seats - akin to QC's population - say that the West desperately needs more seats.

    See, we Liberals, we care about being fair. We say, well, if the West gets this, Quebec and Ontario should have the same rule applied - and vice versa.

    Unlike these "Western" Conservatives, who take your region for granted. Yet really, what have they done for you, except piss off the premiers and, oh, give you this "structural deficit" that you rag on so much about.

    Get a grip on reality, wilson - I'm sick of having to correct the record for you.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 11:59 AM  

  • Thanks Volkov. That was much needed. But then, you are addressing card-holding Con there...

    I'm taking issue with this characterization of the "West" as one region. Liberals and NDP have held/dominated voting in areas like Winnipeg, the North (which also happens to be part of the West), and Southern BC - in particular the Lower Mainland and Island. As a matter of fact, there are probably more NDP and Liberal supporters in BC than Cons...

    If you look at the unfair way seats are assigned, rural areas are far, far overrepresented in Parliament. Rural votes count more than urban ones. If we had a fair balance of seats for urban voters, we would see an even larger number of Grit and NDP MPs.

    Liberal success will come from recognizing an Urban-Rural synergy of 100-mile diets, organic and market farming, and the true needs of cities. As civilizations progress they urbanize, and we need to address the issues which arise as a result. Tying that in with "sustainable" agriculture and resource management is key to success in the new millenia.

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 12:26 PM  

  • Agreed. My point in the article is not so much that rural Saskatchewan can be harvested for Liberal votes. Rather that places like Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, and Vancouver are winnable for the Liberals.

    To me, it would be easiest to break into those seats and hold them than it would be to take rural Ontario and rural Quebec ridings.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:54 PM  

  • Volkov I think you went a little over board. The LPOC has to reach out to the middle. I envision a Liberal platform that addresses the nations current ills and those to come. Like it or not that means a very small "c" conservative fiscal policy. We need to eliminate the deficit ASAP and go to work paying down the accumulated national debt. The Stimulus had to be done by the CPC, LPOC, or the NDP. Every party would have ponied up the billions to save what is left of Ontario's auto industry. Let's start looking forward rather than backwards.

    Iggy should forget about new social programs with the exception of catastrophic drug insurance to be fully funded by premiums on every man and woman who is resident in Canada and over 18. Forget national pharma care or daycare we can hardly afford Medicare. If we are going to spend money lets put it into programs that already exist and need better funding.

    Let's also really review without political considerations every existing program to see what isn't needed any longer. Finally let's have a government with the political courage to cut those programs not matter how hard those affected scream about their scared cows.

    At the same time let's not forget that taxes might be part of the equation as well. Especially higher rates on those among us who earn over a million a year. Before we raise the GST lets tax those who can afford to pay. I'm not ruling out GST increases however onerous they they may be for those of us about to pay the HST. If I had my way the all sales taxes would be replaced by a consumption tax collected at source based on income -savings. Basically If you take our gross income and subtract both income taxes and savings the rest of the money is spent on consumption and it shouldn't matter where it is spent - in Canada or the Caribbean. This would eliminate huge levels of bureaucracy in both business and government.

    Finally we need to face that we need to run surpluses to pay down the accumulated debt to free up money currently spent on interest charges so that that money can be redirected towards the surging population of seniors who will need services in their old age and hopefully will receive those services without bankrupting the country.

    Canadians IMO are ready for either major party to be honest with them and lay out the facts be it the LPOC or the CPC or both in combination. We are in serious economic trouble that won't be solved by an alliance with the free spending NDP.

    Your advice from a small "c" conservative.

    By Blogger Earl, at 1:47 PM  

  • Interesting discussion so far. And it would seem Westerners are about as delusional as tea partiers and fox news viewers. Correction, some westerners....

    So let's take what we have here so far and expand upon it. What policies, approaches, positions etc, would make the LPC competitive and capable of winning in the urban centres of the west?

    We have Earl who made an excellent post about policy in general, I'm just not sure that's the key to opening the door to the cities west of Ontario.

    1. we have fiscal prudence and economic reality. That's a fair point and a big part of why we managed to stay in power for as long as we did; JC/PM.

    But what else? What are 2, 3, 4...?

    I'm in the west right now and I would say Vancouver and Victoria could easily become strong holds for the liberals in similar fashion to TO.

    If you have a balanced budget, pro-legalization of pot candidate, who was fairly libertarian in views, but believed in social responsibility(environment laws), then we would be able to make major strides... I think.

    But regardless of what kind of potion we were able to whip up to convince westerners to vote Red, we also have to look at the reality of the situation.

    The CPC/Harper have broken just about every promise they made and turned their back on many of the strongest positions that they held for years. But the west still supports them. Making gains will require a focussed attack on the CPC and their numerous shortfalls, rather than an exclusive policy and candidate focussed approach.

    By Blogger Disgruntled Liberal, at 3:07 PM  

  • From a right-winger here -- it makes sense.

    Same way once the Tories (re-)merged in 2003, the easiest seats to take were in rural Ontario, the easiest seats for the Liberals to take are in the urban West -- these are voters who should be Liberals.

    Go to your natural supporters -- even if they don't know they are just yet.

    By Blogger Ben (The Tiger in Exile), at 3:11 PM  

  • So long as the Liberal party -- or a strong portion of it anyway --remain committed to collective rights, asymmetrical federalism and means tested social policy the party is doomed to die a slow death.

    One thing that made the Liberal brand dominant for so long was the party's commitment to universality, most notably the Canada Health Act and Canada Pension plan. However, under Martin and Chr├ętien the Liberals abandoned universality and favored instead means tested programs. The thing is means tested social programs do not win elections; the populace is not going to get excited about paying for a service that only a small percentage of the public can use. By turning every social program on offer into a form of welfare, the ability of the Liberals to offer anything other than tax cuts is very limited. Sure enough the Liberals, despite their vacuous rhetoric to contrary, have become virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives on most issues.

    Of course, the one exception to such a dispiriting turn is the Liberals early childhood proposal. That said, the Liberals unwillingness to step on provincial toes and lay out a coherent plan ahead of time have rendered such a policy politically useless. Indeed, during the 2006 election the Liberals promise to work out a different deal with each province amounted to little more than a vague promise to provide more daycare -- which the Liberals said early childhood education was not --- at sometime in the future. Canadians could not figure out what this would mean for their lives and not surprisingly they preferred the Conservative baby bonus.

    If the Liberals reintroduce such a program in the future, they need to present it in a form in which voters can understand. They could, for example, promise to provide all day preschool and kindergarten for every 4 and 5 year old in Canada. Now, it will be said that the Liberals can not do this; education is under provincial control, but such thinking is the heart of the problem. Education is under provincial control, but so is health care and that never stopped Pearson from introducing Medical Care Act. It is high time this group of Liberals grow some. No one is ever going to vote for a party that is scared of the Conservatives, scared of the provinces and just plain scared period.

    The other thing that people admired the Liberals for was their commitment to individual rights. The problem is that the more emphasis Trudeau placed on them the more the rest of the country, particularly the West, resented the Liberals inability to put a stop to bill 178 and and 101 and its willingness to make special accommodations for Quebec. The demise of the Progressive Conservatives, the rise of Reform and most recently the unpopularity of the a coalition that included the Bloc should tell the Liberals that they feels have not gone away.

    By Blogger Koby, at 5:40 PM  

  • "asymmetrical federalism and means tested social policy the party is doomed to die a slow death. "

    So, sending out GST cheques to millionaires will earn votes for the grits? I don't think so.

    By Anonymous van centre, at 2:55 AM  

  • Koby is spot on. I used to vote Liberal for the very things he describes above. The party no longer stands for that.

    By Anonymous CW, at 10:12 AM  

  • Interesting that so many policies are ascribed above to "The Liberal Party" when the Liberal MPs sitting in the House don't seem to agree. How can you say the Party stands for something its own MPs don't believe in?

    By Blogger Paul, at 11:32 AM  

  • Any way you cut it, the BQ represents ~65% of the Quebec MPs and will do so forever.

    Quebec will always elect ~50 BQ separatist MPs and 25 federalist MPs .. not really worth much in the overall picture, is it?!

    The RoC, excluding Quebec, must elect 155+ MPs to neuter the disproportionate representation of the BQ separatists in the HoCs.

    If Canadians in the RoC cannot rally to one of the national parties giving them a majority, the Canadian federal government will continue to be compromised by the BQ separatists.

    Plain and simple ....

    By Anonymous Observant, at 2:33 PM  

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