Monday, February 13, 2006

Rebuilding the Big Red Machine - 2

We interrupt wild leadership speculation for this public service announcement...

While picking a new head will be important in fixing the Liberal Party, the body also needs some major work. The party is in debt, has a disillusioned base, and no real vision of where it wants to take the country.

So I'll pose the question: Does the Liberal Party needs a major shift in policy focus? I'm not talking about specific policies but rather a fundamental shift. To quote our former/current/quasi leader: "Fundamentally, a party's fundamental policy focus is very, very important" (well, it's not a direct quote, but it's something Paul could have said). In the 30s, the Liberals embraced the idea of "big government". During Diefenbaker's time in power, the Liberals decided to shift left and adopt social programs and the welfare state, vowing never again to let the Tories run to their left. In the buildup to 1993, the LPC decided that sound money management and deficit reduction would be an essential blueprint for the Big Red Machine.

With the Tories in power, Liberals need to now ask themselves if another major shift is necessary, or if a minor retooling and a new coat of paint will suffice. And, if a major shift is needed, in what direction should it be? Massive environmental policy? A renewed push for national programs (childcare, pharmacare, free tuition)? A move right? A return to being the defenders of a strong, central government, strongly against asymmetrical federalism?

From my perspective, I don't think we need to change the party's fundamental principles or focus, merely to sharpen them. I would like to see some bold policy and one or two "grand ideas", but I don't think the party's direction is in need of a major shake-up.

Still, it's a question worth asking over the next few months, since I'm sure there are those who'd like to see major changes.


  • I'm happy to know there is at least one other person out there who thinks it isn't necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater policy-wise. Generally, we are on the right track, I agree, and we just need to define our priorities more clearly and not be afraid to remember and appreciate that not all "old ideas" are bad ideas. We do need some renewal, but the experiences of some long time members can be valuable, so we can't discount them outright.

    We need to focus a bit less on being all things to all people and making every policy a priority, hoping that will garner some votes. Develop the policies that work for us - no more ad hoc. And I have to agree, a "Great National Endeavour" or two would not go amiss!

    By Blogger wannabe, at 5:10 p.m.  

  • How about keeping the fiscal management and the committment to a united Canada, but also bring a focus on developing education, research and technology. Make sure every kid who wants one can get a university or college education, or some sort of job training. Fund health research and help start-up technology companies. Develop and encourage sustainable transportation and energy. Make these things a national priority and the economic and social benefits will start to snowball.

    Maybe that all sounds NDP-ish, but I think it would really differentiate the Liberals from the Tories. They should bill themselves as the party to take Canada into the future - to build a stronger country that will benefit the next generation (the Boomers would get behind that, right?). Show the Tories as stale and status-quo. Tories want the rich to get richer: "We'll cut down all the trees and dig up all the oil and *man* are a few of us going to get stinking rich." The Tories will just put more people in jail (but don't put more money into the jail system - how are they going to pull that one off) as a solution to crime.

    Liberals will rebuild the strength and pride of our military (please, please someone do this) so that Canada can be an effective peacekeeper in the world. They'll be tough on criminals but decrease crime through social programs that help youth avoid that life path. They'll decrease the burden on our medical system through research and by promoting healthy living (if everyone ate a bit better and exercised a bit we'd be rolling in money - seriously).

    Liberals should bill themselves as taking Canada towards a social, economic and environmentally enlightened future. The Tories are keeping us in the 20th century.

    Anyway, I obviously know squat about politics. But I don't see much of that being too far from where they are right now. Just some clearly stated priorities and a theme. Maybe the theme could be "change". Just like the last election, except things would actually change.

    Oh, also I'd like to see some sort of legislation where I and my fellow Vancouver-Kingsway residents could go after Emerson with wiffle bats. Or fire ants or something...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:13 p.m.  

  • Please. Its called focus people, and we lack it.

    The Martin fiasco tells us many things, but most importantly it tells us that the principle matters.

    We need a complete re-think...that moves us left. We will miss out on an entire generation of voters who are shifting left if we don't.

    Today's teens and twenty-somethings have the most left wing perspective on the world --- ever. From environmental to social to economic there policy orientation is very different from the mushy middle we see today. I think thats our starting relevant to the voters who might actually mark their 'x' for us.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:16 p.m.  

  • Leadership contender Stephane Dion gave a campaign-style speech today in one of my classes and his focus was on bringing in a third pillar (in addition to economic and social) of sustainability - in a massive way. He also said that the separatists have been dominating the discourse and that part of winning back Quebec hearts and minds would be a massive assault on the separatists on everything from the language ("souverainte" v. "separatisme") to the politics (he said flat out that "there is absolutely no fiscal imbalance, the very idea is illogical").

    So yeah, that's the route one leadership contender (and the only cabinet fixture from 2000-2005) is going.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:19 p.m.  

  • If I had to take a crack at this question I’d outline three main areas. First, I say seriously address the “democratic deficit”. It was that tagline that originally attracted me as Paul supporter way back in the day. It’s really sad nothing ever came of that, we squandered away our credibility on the issue and now the ball is back in the Conservative’s court (well it was until Harper picked his Cabinet anyway). Of course we would need a new catchy phrase for the project but it would be a real worthwhile endeavor to take a good crack at electoral reform, senate reform, nomination processes, etc.

    A second policy plank could be (should be) PSE. How do we make this country the most competitive in the World? How do we increase the tax base without increasing taxes? How do we spur the economy? Massive investments in the knowledge economy, barrier reduction, quality enhancement, ramped up continuance rates, etc.

    Third; a clear focus of where Canada sits in relation to the rest of the world. What can we do about third world poverty, ethnic genocide, disease, terrorism? – Those are just my thoughts, not necessarily in order of importance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:28 p.m.  

  • Policies? Decriminalization of weed would get so much goodwill from separatists!

    Truthfully, Dion is a bit of a one-issue guy (federalism/separatism). Chretien brought him in for that one issue, and even though he did well in Environment, deep down he never stopped being the Minister of Intergovernmental affairs.

    By Blogger Dr.Winston Chan, chiropraticien, at 5:31 p.m.  

  • I think the Liberal's need to do an anti-Martin and come out with 1 or 2 BIG 'dream' policies in which they can throw their entire party and country behind. Canadian's of all stripes are very cynical of politicians, and when someone like Martin comes out with a billion "very very important" ideas, I think most Canadian's really see that as more of the Federal government doing nothing, ie. the status quo. Run left on most issues, but have a few big ticket items too that are the focus of a new renewed mandate (similar to what Harper did). Slaying the deficit was one the Liberal's reluctantly had to do, and after that we have had nothing else other than a bunch of schemes which were never really followed through on. Why not make Canada one of the most economically competitive countries in the world? If that's too Tory, why not eliminate child poverty? Boost education levels to the highest in the world? Massive investments into our cities? Pick one or two and make that the focus of a new mandate! See we already have commitments to eliminate child poverty by 2005 (oops missed that one) but once again since that is just one of the 1000 very important Liberal priorities, nothing happened, it was just more political commitment nonsense with no end result (fix healthcare for a generation?). Sharpen the policy books, show Canadian's something tangible that you will do for them, and you'll be back in power.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:42 p.m.  

  • Clearly a focus on environment is the future. Go throuh the Green party plank and steal everything that will be remotely viable over the next decade. A new look policy cuple wiht a new look leader like Ruby will beat beat Refored Cons back to Alberta.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:02 p.m.  

  • Gosh, gosh, all this heavy thinking. What is it with you guys, there is very little need to think but a great need to get out there. You only have a 2 minute penalty right now. But your web page was not changed for weeks following the election and now it has only been altered to put up Graham/s mug. The other side is already rushing to show it can be as rotten as anything ever said, of the Liberals.
    Outside of social issues, where the population demands business as usual, everything else is most "fluid" so there is no need at all to ponder.This is not a time to show that Martin is ready to bring in the most helpless of his crew (Graham). If he must quit now, he should quit for real. He has no business deciding anything after that abandonment of leadership immediately following the election. The rest of you should make a raproachment with the Chretien "forces" and hope their style will rub off. Martin pulled the Liberal Party apart to push himself into the leader role. Now you have to put it back together. If you take the first steps there the new leader will emerge pretty quick. GET MOVING

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:18 p.m.  

  • I think Proportional Representation, Elected, Equal Senate and other reforms to our sick Democratic system would be a good place for the party to start as one of the "Big Idea's"

    If you want to engadge people in the politcal system you need to make the system reflect the choices they make.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:25 p.m.  

  • You guys should find a new Pierre Trudeau, except he or she should be Asian, Indo-Canadian or Arab (but who grew up in Montreal).

    That would truly energize the country. (Or at least it would energize Vancouver ;-)).

    By Blogger Simon Pole, at 6:45 p.m.  

  • I don't think a major shift in policies is warranted. The liberals were not defeated because of their policies, but because of lack lustre leadership, a sense of entitlement and scandal.

    By Blogger CoteGauche, at 7:04 p.m.  

  • I think the Libs need to rid themselves of socially right wing members... then maybe they can start lecturing everyone on defending minority rights.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:41 p.m.  

  • Big Ideas?

    Strong Central Govt.?
    Good luck getting the provinces to agree to your proposals.

    Focus on Cities. Does that only mean the downtown core of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver? Or do you mean the suburbs and bedroom communities.

    Also when avian flu comes to Canada because your Urban agenda killed rural Canada, don't come bitching to the rural community because the last farmer is about to turn out the lights.

    Want Green. Get back to rail for heavy freight and LRT to move people and get them off the highways.

    Just some thoughts from a hardcore conservative.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:44 p.m.  

  • I agree with the previous people who have posted in favour of the Liberals adopting policy in regards to post-secondary education. Accessible high-quality post-secondary education is vital to Canada's economic, social, and cultural growth. If the Liberals took this on as their major issue, they could positively distinguish themselves from the NDP and the Conservatives quite easily.

    While the Conservatives are busy trying to spend Canadian's money on reckless tax cuts, and the NDP are trying to spend money on whatever their issue of the day is, the Liberals could be talking about not just spending money, but productivity. Instead of just throwing money down some sink hole, we would be investing in our economy and our future. This could appeal to both the left (education) and the right (investing money rather than just spending it on welfare, or some other program that they hate).

    By Blogger rob, at 8:58 p.m.  

  • Look, the problem with the Liberals is fundamentally similar to that of the Democrats- they're too wedded to centrism and triangulation and all the other political consultants' concepts that, ultimately, go nowhere. It has forgotten that its positions need to be rooted in something, and that something has to be a little more ambitious than feel-good pablum.

    Unlike the Dems, however, the Liberals have a huge advantage: Canadians have not yet been socialized to think that liberalism is somehow a bad thing. Saying "we're liberal, and we're not sorry" isn't necessarily possible for the Dems yet, but it IS possible for the Liberals.

    It's not that all the policies need to be thrown out. Far from it, many are great ideas. Fundamentally, however, liberal ideas need to come from liberal political philosophy. That means policies not based solely on economic efficiency or political popularity, but the bedrock values of opportunity, freedom, equality and human rights that liberalism is supposed to be about. Not "equal rights per dollar owned", but equal, period.

    (Oh, and how does this distinguish itself from the pseudo-libertarianism of many modern self-declared "conservatives"? Simple: every right corresponds with an equal and opposite responsibility. Your right not to be discriminated against is tied to your responsibility not to do so yourself. Your right to free speech is tied to your responsibility to respect it in others. Your right to a social safety net is tied to your responsibility to keep that net strong for others who need it too. "Libertarians" cannot accept this; that is what seperates them from liberals, and what seperates a working society and nation from a dysfunctional one.)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 11:16 p.m.  

  • The Liberals best hope for re-asserting themselves as the natural governing party is probably to undergo the dual processes of arriving at and clarifying what the party stands for, policy-wise, and putting someone in charge of the party who embodies this new direction. What the Canadian electorate seems to want is a socially liberal, fiscally conservative and internationally engaged government, and the Liberals are the party best placed to deliver it. The party needs to find the small handful of major policies to give substance to this idea. I'm not sure exactly what they would be, but a focus on cities as economic engines, on education and immigration as competitiveness issues, and on a strong military combined with a reinvigorated diplomatic corps seem like good places to start.

    More important than the choice of policies is the choice of a new leader. I don't think the party can make a major move with a care-taker type of leader. The new leader needs to be strong on the policy side without being too much of a technocrat- i.e. without sacrificing "the vision thing". By this criteria I think you'd have to say that Ignatieff is the best choice out of the remaining field. Admittedly we don't know much about his thoughts on most domestic/economic issues, but I he's clearly got the ideas and the credibility to boost our international standing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:36 p.m.  

  • The Liberal Party of Canada, like the PRI in Mexico, the National Socialist Party of Germany or the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - like all hegemonic totalitarian entities - will eventually be buried under the weight of its contradictions and logical incoherence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:30 a.m.  

  • You've called the Liberal party a hegemonic totalitarian entity? Clearly you've never lived under such a regime or you wouldn't have said something that ignorant.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:55 a.m.  

  • Some great ideas here, I guess we're all pretty confident that the Tories
    are too blind or self-absorbed in their recklessness that they wouldn't
    steal a plank or two.
    My suggestions follow some of the ones already brought forward - addressing
    the productivity dilemma, with a tie to getting immigrants into their
    skill-set and utilizing their previous training quicker. Provincial medical
    boards are holding back and limiting the # of foreign doctors who can apply
    for positions.
    Post Secondary Education, making Canada a leader in the accessibility and
    the end product -- streamlining the route which students take to come out as
    highly trained members of society.
    Environment - its a huge and broad subject but hits home with many. We
    should have a plan re. Kyoto, whether its a go-your-own way or how to meet
    the goals of Kyoto. I'd also push for a national program to ensure Canadians
    have clean drinking water and that our supply of clean water is protected,
    from sea to sea. I think this is a crucial but untapped idea that we should
    be stepping up.
    I also see that we've built up a lot of capital, thanks to Chretien and
    Martin, on being the fiscal house cleaners. Even a spotty record in recent
    years hasn't damaged that completely.
    Let's comb through the other parties' platforms and see what makes sense,
    but first develop our own agenda and tailor things to how we envision
    Canada's future and needs.
    Then hoist Kennedy on our shoulders and make him the boss!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:57 a.m.  

  • There's some great stuff here - keep it coming.

    Sometime this week, I'll try and sift through it and pick out the common points.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:02 a.m.  

  • Bart, the federal Liberals will do what they have done since time immemorial...they will campaign from the left, and govern from the right!


    By Blogger John Murney , at 1:46 a.m.  

  • They need to take a two stage approach.

    First have a regional focus: a plan which targets specific regions, in particular B.C.and Quebec. Ontario and Atlantic Canada their doing fine. They've lost the West for a generation so they can forget about it for awhile. But if Quebec continues it's movement towards the CPC the Libs will be out of power for a very long time.

    After you've got your foot in the door with a reasonably stable government, then think big. It will be a huge task since the Liberal brand in Quebec has bottomed out (the results would have been much worse had the CPC had any sort of ground game in Que. You can bet they will the next time around.)

    It sounds bleak but it's your only chance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:38 a.m.  

  • The Liberals need to distinguish between policy that is merely good and good policy that galvanizes people. For example, the clarity act was good policy. It is did not however inspire Canadians. SSM on the other hand was good policy and it galvanized Canadians. It is a fool’s errand to think that one can turn this or that issue in a galvanizing one. Societal, economic and cultural factors determine ahead of time what issues command people’s attention.

    If I had to pick two galvanizing issues that might be winners for the Liberals it would be euthanasia and marijuana decriminalization or even better legalization.

    Now it is important to remember in selecting such issues that viewed in isolation they may not be winners. This was certainly the case with SSM. Sure the population was equally divided on the issue. However, only 60% of Canadians vote and majority of likely voters were opposed. Indeed, as a rule of thumb the older one gets the more likely one is to a) a vote and b) oppose to SSM. SSM was a winner because the Conservatives ended by defending a legally, morally and intellectually bankrupt position. It also helped that Conservatives appear to be on the wrong side of history.

    Someone mentioned the productivity gap with the US. This needs to be addressed, but not by the usual methods. Listening to Canwest and Martin you would think that corporate taxes were to blame – what nonsense. As Globe reported in the fall corporate earnings in Canada are grossly out of step with the rest of the Western world. “The pace of Canadian corporate earnings growth will exceed not only the U.S. but all other major global regions next year, and the projected strength is not confined to the energy sector, says a report by UBS Securities Canada Inc.

    “While it is true that earnings in the energy sector are expected to be faster than anywhere else, less appreciated is the fact that non-energy earnings are also expected to lead their global peers,” UBS chief strategist George Vasic and analyst Garry Cooper wrote in a 2006 forecast.

    Canadian companies will increase their profits by 17.4 per cent on a year-over-year basis, UBS said, compared with a 2006 global growth forecast of 12.1 per cent.

    Earnings expectations for the rest of the regions scrutinized by UBS — the U.S., the United Kingdom, the rest of Europe, Japan, the remainder of Asia, and Latin American — range from 11 to 14 per cent.” I do not want to sound too tongue in cheek, but increase labor costs and bob’s your uncle productivity will go up guaranteed. Canadians only get a Federally guaranteed two weeks of vacation a year. It is time we get more. 4 is the base in Europe. It is time we clossed the vacation gap. We are equally deserving of as much R and R.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:57 a.m.  

  • Why rebuild the big red machine when Belinda is going to bake a cake for y'all?

    I think the Liberal Party is dead, and that the Green Party is going to emerge as the second party to the Conservatives over the next decade.

    Paul Martin hollowed out the Liberal Party. It stands for nothing. It is a mere platform for a leader. So there is going to be the struggle between those who want to rebuild a party based on some ideological foundation, and those in the elite (like Belinda) who want to grab the shell (Belinda Stronach's Liberals a la Paul Martin's Liberals) and run with it.

    Anybody young who believed in anything is already somewhere else.

    Like the Conservatives, the Green Party has a raison d'etre, thus they will be the survivor. The real greens will never trust the Liberals or the NDP (like the real reformers would never trust the PC's) who are beholden to different masters.

    The Liberal Party is Bloc Toronto. The Green Party, like Reform, will emerge out of the West in BC and Alberta.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 a.m.  

  • Maybe you should start by examining your myhtology. Canada is no longer a great peace keeping nation, Trudeau is not universally loved and revered, social programs and big spending don't sell anymore, and basing everything on race, gender, and language is very 20th century. Break some taboos and maybe you'll be a reinvigorated party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:53 a.m.  

  • I’m a conservative, which means generally not a Liberal, but I would point out here that despite a gazillion tactical campaign mistakes the Liberals are still on the sunny side of 100 seats. If the Liberals had been reduced to 60-some seats despite running a tactically smooth campaign, a major strategic re-think would be in order. But it is entirely reasonable to believe the Liberals will be back big time once the Tories lose the protest vote and the “change” vote so perhaps one shouldn’t just throw that away with a big time repositioning effort.

    Tap a Stephan Dion as leader in order to stop the bleeding in Quebec, or a Michael Ignatieff to keep the punditry on side. A Belinda at leader or a shift left may make some demographic sense but Bush’s Harriet Miers nomination is a good example of how the polls are really a lagging indicator and it is the intellectuals who lead the process and the public eventually comes around.

    Worst case scenario is to just wait out the Harper era. Only Nixon could go to China and only a Calgarian with a rep as a hard right ideologue could make the compromises that got the Tories seats in Quebec and the east generally. If McKay or someone like that should take over after Harper the western or neo-con base will split off again.

    - Brian Dell

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:59 a.m.  

  • It's it incorrect to think the party needs a major shift in policy, as the last poster mentioned despite a weak leader and a disastrous, scandal plagued campaign the Libs still won 100+ seats.

    A majority of Canadian were satisfied with the middle of the road approach of LPC. The only thing that cost the LPC the last election was Gomery.

    Why would you want to fix what is not broken? The only thing necessary are safe guard that reduce the possibility of another Adscam.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:04 p.m.  

  • There are a lot of people here saying that the Liberals should do one or another thing because it would make them win, or in the same vain, that we should do anything too great because we haven't lost too badly.

    I know this is the real world, and that in the end if you don't win, you can't make change. But putting winning first means that when you get there you don't know what you're doing, or you end up with a Prime Minister who does whatever they want.

    Martin fell into the first of those two traps.

    No, I say that even if they don't change dramatically, the Liberal party needs to re-examine and re-commit to its basic principles of freedom, responsibility, universal human dignity, and equality of opportunity. It needs to reconsider the implications of those principles, and go forward with the process of winning on the basis of what they believe is right.

    In my mind, the implications lead to a very broad theme that covers everything the country needs to worry about right now. It covers how Canada must interact with the rest of the world, how Canadians should interact with and control their government, how Canadians should utilize their natural environment.

    The theme is sustainability. We must take as good the continued existence of our society in our place, recognizing that things that change too much disappear from view, and things that change to little are destroyed by the changes around them. We must make our society sustainable where we can, and we must change or abandon those things that cannot be made sustainable.

    Our security situation in the world is not sustainable. Our use of the environment is not sustainable. I would argue our lack of democracy is not sustainable. Financial deficits are not sustainable. Basing our economy on things that huge developing nations will be able to do as well and less expensively is not sustainable.

    Those aren't policy shifts so much as shifts in justification for those policies. Some of them, of course, imply that much more should be done in certain areas. But more importantly it shows why they are important to do.

    Having that justification, and having a leader express it in a way that allows Canadians to decide for themselves whether they agree, is what is going to win us the support our philosophy deserves. And we should ask no more than that.

    Because if we believe Canadians are equal under the law, we cannot put winning first. That would be to put ourselves ahead of our fellow citizens who disagree, and that would violate our fundamental principles.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 2:19 p.m.  

  • I'd like to pick up on the Dione stuff.
    We really are dead in Quebec. We shouldn't pretend because the challenge we face in re-vitalizing the party in that province is massive.

    I fear that we will be locked out of power for a long long time because of the Quebec weakness and as a result, linguistic duality should be a central though in the future.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:10 p.m.  

  • Dead in Quebec? Doesn't the LPC hold 13 seats? I am sure a couple of Montreal area PQ seats can be retaken, do we really need to waste effort going after more?

    The Liberals should concentrate on Ontario, Winnipeg, Edmonton and BC.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:55 p.m.  

  • Lots of good stuff in these posts.

    Here's my take: we need a visionary yet ultra-competent leadership that sets these goals...

    * the world's best education system
    * the world's best health system
    * the most equitably prosperous society in the world
    * a transition to a carbon-neutral economy by mid-century

    * a foreign policy developed in close cooperation with other "middle power" partners (e.g. northern Europe, UK, Australia, Japan), focused on building peace, good governance and environmental sustainability in the world's poorest nations.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:19 p.m.  

  • Supplementary notes on Canada's foreign aid policy: We can do so much better. Canada's existing external aid programs are all in the nature of band-aids. They do not have the scale to actually solve any country's basic problems.

    As long as the dynamics of poor governance, economic chaos, demographic overshoot and ecological degradation remain much larger than the scale of attempted solutions, these 'solutions' aren't much more than symbolic gestures.

    A more effective approach would be to build an effective network of 'middle powers' (Europe, UK, Australia, maybe Japan, Taiwan, etc.), working in close partnership, willing and capable of taking on a two-generational project to assist the world's poorest nations to achieve peace, order, good government, population stability, gender equity, and conservation of biodiversity.

    A group of allied nations could take on a couple of test cases for intensive assistance and see what can be done with focused attention over (say) five years -- Zambia, say, or Gabon -- then on the basis of lessons learned from that experience, set about systematically pulling other countries out of chaos and degradation into peace, order and good government over the next fifty years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:21 p.m.  

  • Harper’s New Tories and the Liberal rebuilding:

    If Liberals are to select a new leader and cobble together a platform designed to convince voters to return them to power soon, then perhaps they should find out a bit more about the enemy they face in Harper and his new Conservatives.

    Consider this quote:

    “And if Mr. Harper conducts himself with the same savvy in the next few years as he has in the past few, the question that Canadians will be asking themselves in the next election will not so much be about Mr. Harper, but of whether the opposition parties have sufficiently reorganized themselves to be considered viable alternative governments in the new reality of Canadian politics.”

    The source? An article called Replacing the Pan-Canadian Consensus by Ray Pennings and Michael Van Pelt, in the Work Research Foundation, found at their website

    The thrust of this article is that Harper’s New Tories are more evangelical than traditional party, seeking revolutionary change to the Canadian political landscape. For thirty years, the authors maintain, the right has been working towards a new political infrastructure to replace the pan-Canadian consensus of the NDP and Liberal parties.

    Let’s examine their theory, because there are more than a few indicators that they might be right, at least as far as the New Tories see themselves. If – like me – you assume Harper’s takeover of the old ProgCons caused a paradigm shift and introduced into Canada a clone of the evangelically inspired anti-statist new Republican Party under Bush, then their take on what the last election meant is meaningful for these reasons:

    • It sketches the difference between many Liberals in their quest to rebuild their party, and the revolutionary New Tories quest to change society forever;

    • It highlights how the Liberals might fight the Tories during the next session of Parliament and in the next election, rather than fighting the past war.

    Lesson number one: Know your enemy if you wish to defeat your enemy.

    The authors spell out 3 possible reasons for the results of the last election:

    1. Liberals were spanked and sent to the penalty box to atone for their sleaze, with voters prepared to re-elect them to government in a short while. Harper’s New Tories are simply a placeholder for a short time.

    2. The Lazarus theory – the Conservatives are cut from the same cloth as the Liberals but now have assumed an equal role as a national party, rising from the grave to do so when Harper and Mackay cut a deal to take over the old ProgCons; the voters will be able to choose between two parties both occupying essentially the same political space.

    3. The Breaking of the Mould – Harper’s New Tories represent a new set of political forces, aimed at irrevocably changing the political contours of Canada in such a way that the old pan-Canadian consensus is replaced by their revolutionary (imported from American) anti-statist model.

    The authors believe in the Breaking of the Mould.

    What does this mean for the Liberals and NDP?

    First, the pan-Canadian consensus which Harper’s New Tories will bury, is an agreement that politics in Canada revolves around five poles:
    • a strong central government, multiculturalism and bilingualism;
    • an activist government developing new social programs;
    • rights-based social agenda;
    • peacekeeping instead of fighting enemies;
    • solving crime through programs aimed at causes rather than beefing up police and increasing punishment.

    Sound familiar?

    Just go through the list again and state the opposite for each consensus value.

    What to you get? A mirror image of the theocracy espoused by the Bush Republicans. To uses an American analysis, the consensus model is the nurturing family model in the USA, while the New Tory model is the strict patriarchal model of the Republican right.

    The authors give an example of a Harper plank in his election platform which demonstrates the revolutionary intent behind his New Tories – the so-called fiscal imbalance issue.

    Note the framing of this issue by the New Tories: there is a problem; it is a money problem; it is based on fairness because the central government is taking more money than it should.

    They state:
    “A similar example is the Conservative policy regarding the fiscal imbalance. Several analysts have suggested the turning point of the campaign was Stephen Harper's December 19th speech in Quebec City. Although a lot of groundwork had preceded this speech outside of the public eye, until that day the Conservatives were perceived by virtually everyone to be a non-factor in Quebec, with less than 10% support in that province. In one month, they converted that to 26% and ten seats in the province.
    Though the competing bravados from every leader on patriotism, the maple leaf and the fleur-de-lis were hard to penetrate, the Quebec City debate hit its stride on the "fiscal imbalance" or, to oversimplify, the appropriate powers and responsibilities of federal and provincial governments when it comes to taxation. It was here that the Conservatives unveiled their (awkwardly named) proposal "Charter of Open Federalism". The details of this document have understandably escaped the notice of most Canadians, but its impact is significant.
    Essentially, under this plan, no new federal proposals regarding national cost-shared programs (such as daycare) can be proposed without majority provincial support. Even then, provinces that wish to opt out can receive financial compensation provided they offer a comparable provincial program. Since finding ways for the provinces to pay for health and education is among the most difficult tasks facing Canadian politicians for the next decade, the ground rules established by this plan could scarcely have been more timely.”

    Read that again carefully, only this time think of revolutionaries of the past: Mao; Marx; Stalin; Gingrich ... Can you see the implications of this carefully framed “fiscal imbalance” issue?

    Harper and his New Tories wish to change the political contours of Canada in a way which cannot be reversed. They wish to change major strands which have defined the Canada we now have, for a model which has not proven to be successful anywhere else in the world.

    What does this mean for the Liberals and NDP?

    Very simple: when choosing a leader and a platform, make sure you understand your enemy, and are fighting the right battle. If you let the New Tories frame the issues their way, and introduce their changes, rather than fight them tooth and nail because you are opposing their revolutionary changes, you will lose not only the next election but possibly the country you now live in.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:53 p.m.  

  • WHy must the liberals find another national program. Most canadians dont want another national program. How about just getting descent healthcare before wasting money on other programs such as daycare. No wonder the conservatives won. Voters want lower taxes not more govt spending.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:14 p.m.  

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