Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rebuilding the Big Red Machine - 3

Last week, I opened it up for suggestions on the direction the Liberal Party should take. There were a lot of great ideas tossed around. The most common themes I could pick out were:

-Funding of post-secondary education as part of a larger innovation strategy
-Promoting environmental sustainability

In my opinion, both of these would make excellent planks in the new LPC philosophy.

For a cross-section of the comments left by readers, simply read on:

National Programs

"To me a Liberal Party that embraces Canadian Nationalism and a strong centralized government would provide a sharp contrast to the Conservatives and their decentralizing ways.

A commitment to a truly national Day Care Plan would be a great start. "

Democratic Reform

"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). "

"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" "

Canada and the World

"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? "

"Our immigration policy is focused on inviting the top skilled people and turning them into embittered servants rather than inviting people who could build business ties around the world, and then be leaders in those industries. "

"What about Canada's role abroad? Canada Corps is a good start, but can't we do more? Shouldn't we be using our fabulous wealth to make a real difference in Africa and other developing nations? "

"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. "

"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. "

Research, Innovation, and Technology

"How about keeping the fiscal management and the commitment 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. "

Post-Secondary Education

"Boost education levels to the highest in the world?"

"I agree that Post-Secondary Education is the big issue of the early 21st centruy for Canada. we need a federal government that can think strategically about education and back it up with the funding hammer."

"We have the second worst ratio in the world of public expenditures on education to student performance. Our unionized school systems need reform so that bad teachers get the boot, not library duty. "

"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. "

Environmental Sustainability

"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."

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

"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. "

National Unity

"[Dion] 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")."

Social Issues

"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."

General Strategy

"I agree we need focus, but we don't need any more focus groups."

"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.

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! "

"Please. It’s 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."

" 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."

"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."

"First have a regional focus: a plan which targets specific regions, in particular B.C.and Quebec. Ontario and Atlantic Canada their doing fine."

"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."

"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"


  • sounds good to me. You have outlined 7 positive priorities for the Libs. and each are very worthwile. I think in the next election, that we should just focus on some of these positive ideas. It is not good enough to promise the "moon", people want someting they can sink their teeth in, whether it is for students, research, our policies toward the world outside of Canada, and also to think of the long range outlook. It is not just good enough to think about the "next" election. We have to have a much longer view of our country and where we are in the world and how we can contribute to that world. After all, we are a tolerant and giving country and because we are, we can give a lot to the less fortunate in our world.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:23 a.m.  

  • I'd like to add Dalton McGuinty to your list of Liberal leader hopefuls.
    Clearly, he will not be doing anything come Oct. 2007.

    He's be heads above all the other possible candidates AND, he's got the WMD and "kickass" communicator Kinsella in his corner. Now THAT'S a pretty winning combination for the courntry, although McGuinty'd still need Ontario to win a general federal election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:22 a.m.  

  • I skimmed through the priorities to be honest, but I found some very interesting for several reasons.

    1. Things like proportional rep and elected Senate are Reform ideas.

    2. Education and health care are not federal responsibilities. As much as the feds will talk about 'creating a world class health care system' or 'creating the best education system' its simply not possible for the feds to do so.

    3. As for Dalton McGuinty... well.. I'm from Southern Ontario... if you made him leader of the party you'd lose a lot of votes in Ontario.

    By Blogger Eric, at 9:11 a.m.  

  • It really is time to step back and take a more objective and overall view of issues.

    Forgive the shamless self-promotion but read the Next Face Manifesto at

    It is a good place to start.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:43 a.m.  

  • Wonderful but, ...
    the American fundamentalist movement is now in Ottawa and by the time the next electin roles around they will be fully entrenched and with media power the Liberals could only dream of. Energy should be spent on developing strategy to fight the, 'fundies' 'cause if we don't we'll be the Canadian version of the Democratic party.
    Mark my words carefully and remember you read it here first.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:46 a.m.  

  • Headline today in the Globe and Mail "U.S. reopens abortion debate."

    Kiddies, this is not about a political battle. What is shaping up in both Canada and the U.S. is a nasty, bitter, full fledged Culture War. Not going to be pretty. Choose your side carefully. It's going to be nearly impossible to find middle ground.

    By Blogger Don, at 11:33 a.m.  

  • CG,
    Great post outlining some of the many new initiatives that the Liberal party should be looking to undertake...
    It would seem that if the Grits could pioneer some real change in the election act as well as the Senate it would take a significant amount of steam out of the CPC sails going into the next election.

    By Blogger Keegan, at 12:10 p.m.  

  • As much as the big picture is interesting and important I would like to suggest that we also need to remember to include some real basic "cash in the jeans" or "better life" ideas.
    The GST cut was brilliant on the part of the cons, good politicaly, good economically, good ethically.
    We need some basic fundamental pratical ideas that will really connect with people. We need the air war yes, big ideas, but lets couple it with a solid ground offensive. We really lost the ground war this time. We still dominate in the air, big ideas. But how about some small, practical ideas that really effect how people live, ideas that strike people as good common sense and that are easily, quickly adn effectivly implemeted, not just cash transfers to the provinces but something that people will see as The Liberal Party acting right away on commitments and sensible commitments that impact peoples lives.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:27 p.m.  

  • Iwould agree that we should stay away from making grand pronouncements on how a Federal government is going to micro-manage areas of provincial responsiblity.
    These include: health care, education, day care, home care, etc.
    Any changes proposed in these requires implementation by the provinces and it is becoming apparent that no federal government should meddle as we have tried in the past.
    We should be accountable to those matters that are within federal jurisdition as per our constitution.
    Aboriginals, defence, infrastructure, immigration, national environmental standards, and legislation that affects various sectors to name a few.

    Just a thought to generate more thoughts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:54 p.m.  

  • Increasing education funding is a tricky animal. Aside from the juristicion problems, low education costs are not all they're cracked up to be. It will always be that the student is the greatest recipient of their post secondary education. In the long term the salary benefits greatly outweigh the cost, even if it seems prohibitive in the short term.
    If education gets too cheap, or (for you socialists), free everyone and their 2.0 GPA brothers goes into post secondary if they don't know what to do with themselves. What follows are larger classrooms, poorer quality professors and a huge cost to society when most of the new entrants don't end up graduating. Just look at the CJEP (sp?) program in Quebec. There aren't many people that think the average Quebec worker is any more productive or educated then the rest of the country. They have more unionized manufacturing jobs than anywhere else in the country. In fact, it's the opposite, high cost schools produce the most productive and capable students and citizens Canada has.
    Cheaper post-secondary sounds good, but it really only helps out temporarily those lost souls trying to figure out what to do with their lives by giving them another couple of years of highschool to get their priorities in order.

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

  • A more centralized federal gov't only gives credence to the separatists to want to leave.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:30 p.m.  

  • Nice post, dude. I have some general thoughts about this on my blog about this as well.

    As a dipper, I think a shift to the left would be a good thing for Canada. Might make for some more competition for the NDP, but I would welcome it.

    By Blogger bza, at 4:57 p.m.  

  • If there are something we assuredly must *not* do (if we want to avoid the fate of the US opposition, not to seem unduly dramatic)it is buy into Conservative ideology and move towards them on the issues of further decentralization and health care privatization. The Conservatives are dead wrong on both counts, and seek to manufacture crises in single payer health care and emasculate what is already a perilously weak central government.

    Any victory gained by abandoning these principles even in part would be pyrrhic - and like the Democrats, we have no chance of out-torying the tories.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:36 p.m.  

  • I honestly don't think there is anything wrong with the current policy direction of the Liberal Party. I think the next leader must commnicate policy better in ways that connect with everyday Canadians. This is something that Jean Cretien was adept at, but Paul Martin failed at.

    By Blogger CoteGauche, at 7:24 p.m.  

  • Number one priority quit stealing the money.HaHaHaBwahahahahahaha

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:07 p.m.  

  • Re: Canada and the world, I very much like the notion of "Canada as model global citizen" it has resonance, it's based in truth, and to perpetuate it, we need to get out our chequebook.

    By Blogger doggerelblogger, at 7:53 p.m.  

  • Interesting Ideas. I think the party needs to focus more on what we stand for rather than on how bad our opponents are. Now that the Conservatives are in power, either they will adopt a hidden agenda and get turfed out of office or they won't and we won't be able to use that card again. I don't think the Liberals would be wise to move too much to either the left or right. As attractive as moving to the left may seem, the NDP historically has always gotten above 15%, so at best picking up some NDP votes might swing a couple close ridings our way assuming we don't lose any Blue Liberals to the Cons. The only reason they got in the single digits in the 90s was due to the unpopular NDP governments in BC and Ontario who have both long been thrown out of office. Likewise moving to the Right could also be risky as I suspect the 30% the Tories got in 2004 was more due to the fact they were a new and unknown party. Even though 36% may be on the high side, I think it is safe to say they will get at least 32% next time around. Therefore we need to straddle the centre and draw soft supporters from both camps. I like most of the suggestions, but I think we should also have one on the economy since that was one of our strengths.

    Contrary to what the NDP or Cons may say, it is ultimately a strong economy that enables Canada to have a strong social safety net. On the environment lets adopt policies that promote the growth of green industries so we can have a green economy. Lets show the NDP and Cons we can have both a clean environment and a strong economy at the same time, it doesn't require choosing one over the other. On Post-Secondary Education, we should do more to make it more accessible, although eliminating tuition fees is not realistic and considering in Germany where tuition is free that an average student takes 7-8 years to do a four year degree, I think lower tuition is a good idea, but not no tuition. On the national childcare program, I think we should look for a system that ensures more day care spaces are created, but also recognizes some families may wish to personally hire a nanny or have their child cared by another family. Part of the reason Harper's childcare plan reasonated well in suburban and rural areas was there aren't many day care spaces in rural and suburban areas. Lets remember, we cannot win the election solely by relying on the large cities. Winning Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, while losing elsewhere won't do us any good. A more centralized government sounds good, but this will be quite unpopular in Quebec where we must re-build our support if we wish to return to government. At the very least, any greater centralization should not apply to Quebec, but only to all other provinces, i.e. assymetrical federalism. On health care, our goal should be on reducing waiting lists so ideas such as a wait time guarantee are good ideas. I also think we should drop our opposition to limited private sector involvement provided their are limits on the number of doctors working in the private system, doctors cannot work in both systems, and private health insurance is only for elective surgeries such as hip replacements, cataract surgery.

    Finally we need strong regional plans. In Atlantic Canada we are in good shape, so our goal should be to hold the seats we have and any pick-ups will be a bonus. This should be done by emphasizing policies that will help make Atlantic Canada into have provinces. Scott Brison's plans when he ran for the PC leadership race might be good ones to consider.

    In Quebec, our party must re-build, but we are in serious trouble outside Montreal. We must re-establish ourselves as the choice for federalism. Since most Quebecers are not Conservatives and the few that are, are mostly Libertarians as opposed to social conservatives, we can regain our support here if we show respect for provincial jurisdiction in Quebec as well as consider adopting assymetrical federalism.

    In Ontario - contrary to what another posts, says, we are not okay there. We won 54 seats out of 106, but over 2/3 came from the GTA. In fact outside of the GTA, we lost the majority of seats and the few we hung onto weren't by large margins. Our focus now must turn to suburban and rural Ontario who have clearly turned our backs on us. I understand the 100+ seats we won in the 90s are likely over, but there is no reason we cannot and should not be getting over 70 seats. I figured the Conservatives only have about 20 safe seats in Ontario and the Dippers five, so that means there are 81 winneable seats in Ontario and had we won all those last election, we would still be in government.

    Western Canada - I know some say we should write off the prairies, but long-term, if the population growth continues in Alberta, we won't be able to ignore Alberta. Contrary to what some say, Edmonton and downtown Calgary are not hard-core conservative areas. Those areas went Liberal provincially, so if we can show we are not a Central Canada dominated party, but one that cares for all regions of Canada and will not adopt another NEP II, we can win in those areas. Off course Rural Alberta and Suburban Calgary won't be coming our way any time soon.

    Finally there is British Columbia. Actually we did quite well in BC since seat wise this is our best showing since 1968. The real problem we face here is the traditional left/right polarization, which as a resident of BC I think many are sick of. Right now about 1/3 of BC NDP supporters and 1/3 of BC Liberal supporters are going Liberal federally, but I believe we can get that up to half. This can be done not just by having policies that benefit BC, which we've already done, but also by combining strong fiscal responsibility with strong social programs. Most on the left have a fear that strong fiscal policy means weak social programs while those on the right believe strong social programs, means bad economic policy. If we can prove we can do both, we can win support from both sides.

    By Blogger Monkey Loves to Fight, at 4:58 p.m.  

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