Thursday, May 05, 2011

Election Post Mortem: The Liberals

In the 2004 election, the Liberal Party lost 37 seats. Liberals blamed this on Adscam, and they blamed it on Dalton McGuinty. This was considered a bad result, but the good news was voters had gotten it out of their system and, regardless, they'd never make Stephen Harper Prime Minister so there was a little to worry about. Consider it a speed bump on the road to 200 seats.

In the 2006 election, the Liberal Party lost 32 seats. Again, Adscam got much of the blame, as did the RCMP, the gaffe-plagued campaign and, depending on your faction, one of the previous two Liberal Prime Ministers. This was considered a bad result, but a new leader and a few months of Reform-Alliance government would lead voters right back into the arms of the Liberal Party.

In the 2008 election, the Liberal Party lost 36 seats. This time, it was really all Stephane Dion's fault - him and that darn Green Shift! This was considered a bad result, but we'd all learned from the mistake in Montreal, so we'd just name Michael Ignatieff leader and take back government. The sooner the better - after all, leadership races can be messy and, as we'd seen, party members couldn't be trusted with an important decision like picking a leader.

In the 2011 election, the Liberal Party lost 33 seats. The good news is that (I hope) everyone now recognizes there's a problem here. A problem that runs deeper than leadership.

For this reason, I won't bother dissecting the Liberal campaign in too much detail. After all, it actually wasn't a bad campaign. The tour ran smoothly. There we no major gaffes or misspeaks. There were big crowds. The platform was fine. The ads were fine. Yeah, the debates were a bit of a disaster, and the leader couldn't connect with voters, but do people honestly think there is anything the Liberals could have done differently? Sure, a different leader might have held on to second place or might have kept Harper to a minority, but if the end goal is forming government, it's clear major changes are needed.

So what happens now?

The first thing Liberals need to do is put 2015 out of mind. That's a long ways away and given the tectonic shifts we saw in the political landscape over the past four weeks, it's foolish to predict with certainty what we'll be up against in four years. Maybe Harper will be hugely unpopular after a decade in power. Maybe Maxime Bernier will be the Tory leader. Maybe Jack Layton's Quebec caucus will be his undoing. Maybe a Mulcair-led NDP will be flying high in the polls (I'll believe that when I see it). Maybe the Bloc will be back. Maybe the Greens will be polling in the high 20s.

There's no way for us to know what the future holds, so the Liberals need to look inwards and get their own act together before worrying about who they're running against.

In my mind, everything should be on the table, and party members should be the ones to decide after careful and thoughtful debate. I personally think merging with the NDP is a foolish idea, but some Liberals think it makes sense and they deserve to be heard. Let's figure that out and then move on together.

I'm sure my idea of who the next leader should be is different from what a lot of other Liberals will want, so let's vote on a leader and then move on together. Unless of course Frank McKenna is interested, in which case, we can just skip the vote. (I kid, I kid...)

Personally, I'd like to see the Liberals take a strong stand against the soft-nationalist policies of the Bloc NDP, but a lot of Liberals will disagree, wanting to win back Quebec. Let's figure out where we stand and then move on together.

Some will want to move left. Some will want to move right. Some will say we should trash good policy in favour of populist trinkets. The debate needs to be had, and the membership needs to be involved in that debate.

Not just for show, but for real. Ever since I've been involved (and I'm sure before then), the party has let the membership talk and then ignored what they had to say. There's a 14-step policy process, where policies suggested by individual Liberals can climb all the way to the floor at a national convention where, if enough Liberals support them, they may one day be filed away in a binder in the PMO OLO LO.

The Party set up a Change Commission and a Renewal Committee a few years ago. Both did a lot of good work. Both produced reports. The hell if I know what happened after that.

Now, I have a lot of ideas. Most are probably stupid. I'm not going to rehash them all now, because I'd basically be retyping the blog post I wrote after the last election. Or the election before that. Sadly, little has changed in 5 years.

What I will say now, is that the party needs to figure out answers to the following six questions:

1. What do we stand for?

2. Why should Canadians vote Liberal? (this answer cannot contain the words "NDP" or "Conservative Party" in it)

3. How do we communicate the above to voters?

4. Who exactly should we be convincing to vote for us? (I'd call this "who makes up the Liberal coalition", if not for the obvious attack ad it would lead to)

5. How do we engage our membership?

6. How do we raise enough money to live in the post-subsidy world?

The good news is we have two years to answer these questions, then another two years to put it into practice.

I have a lot to say about this and, judging from the e-mails, blog posts, and Facebook notes I've seen flying in the past 48 hours, a lot of Liberals do too.

So here's what I'm willing to do. Send me your ideas of what you think the Liberal Party needs to do moving forward, and I'll post them here. Even if I think something's a dumb idea, I'll post it, because I'm not the arbiter of what's a good idea and what's a bad idea.

There's definitely a lot of work to do. We need to recognize there's a chance the Liberal Party may very well fade away into oblivion. There's also a chance we could be in power within an election or two. As we've all learned over the past month, politics is unpredictable and making bold predictions with certainty is a good way to look awfully silly.

The next four years may very well be the most important in the history of the Liberal Party, so let's get to work.


  • Yes, we all see the trend - a bleed of 30+ seats every election since 2004.

    Now the Liberals have 34 seats. What happens when the trend continues when the next election happens in 2015?

    LPC (AKA as the UK Liberal party) - RIP 2015.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:39 a.m.  

  • We need to listen to young leaders in the Party. They wanted to bring real change to the Liberal Party. We rejected that when we did not choose Kennedy in 2006. Instead, the Liberal Party tried to find the quickest road to power and look what happened.

    Far and Wide posted this link to Kennedy's 2006 convention speech:

    This is a powerful speech and completely relevant in 2011. Every Liberal should read it.

    I hope now the Party will take their young leaders seriously.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:43 a.m.  

  • Good post Dan.

    I think identifying what we stand for has to be the top priority. I'm not exactly sure how to do it.

    I'll also float an idea I have been kicking around that liekly will never see the light of day.

    I'd open up the next leadership race-model it closer to the American primaries.
    Helps with ground orginization, increases money (and possibly future money) increases the importance of riding-by-riding level, and let's us know which person is best resonating with Canadians.

    It would have to be a longer and more drawn out process but we have time.

    By Anonymous Deputy Dan, at 10:46 a.m.  

  • All these ideas have been talked about, but no one is going to implement them.

    The Liberal road to election success lies through Quebec, always has. And now that we see that a majority is possible for the Tories without Quebec, and with electral reform on the way to get more seats for he ROC, that will be cemented.

    Yes, the Progressive Conservatives were bashed down to two seats, but the rise of two more parties (Bloc and Reform) made that easier; the Liberals have no such foil now. The PCs recovered a bit only to join with what was once sundered. And now the NDP is the viable federalist alternative in Quebec.

    The one thing no one seems to get is that the Liberal party as a political force is done, and you are avoiding looking at the UK to see how it is going to go. Stop wasting your time and start looking at other options.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:00 a.m.  

  • The Liberal road to election success lies through Quebec, always has.

    Not necessarily true. As we can see with Harper, you can win a majority while getting a handful of seats in Quebec. Also true for Chretien, who won a series of majorities with the help of Ontario.

    The one thing no one seems to get is that the Liberal party as a political force is done, and you are avoiding looking at the UK to see how it is going to go. Stop wasting your time and start looking at other options.

    The same thing might have been said about the NDP in the 1990's. In 1993, the NDP won 9 seats and lost official party status, but we as can see they seem to be alive and well today.

    As for the UK, the Liberal party fell apart there, but part of this has to do with the fact that in 1922, the party literally divided into two parties -- the Liberals and the National Liberals. There was infighting with Chretien and Martin, but they didn't actively create their own party and campaign against the other.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 11:16 a.m.  

  • I do think Quebec is a real opportunity for the Liberals. They were never able to knock the Bloc out on their own, but the NDP's decimation of the Bloc is an opportunity for the other two federalist parties, especially given the shakiness of many of the NDP's new MPs.
    At the moment, there's no political party at the federal level with a strong organization across Quebec. The NDP have a real chance to build one now, but the Liberals also have a shot. Against the Bloc, the Liberals were the party of dowdy fedreralism; against the NDP, they can be the party of grown-ups against the party of teenagers, a much better position to be in.

    By Blogger ajbeecroft, at 11:19 a.m.  

  • I voted Liberal for several elections.

    While I’m a Blogging Tory, because I felt my local candidate essentially saw himself as being elected when the nomination race was complete, refusing to attend debates or present himself in the public, I voted NDP for the first time in my life.

    I have voted conservative ever since the introduction of the Gun Registry. And I don’t own a gun and never have.

    But I could see that it was flawed, I could see it was at it’s core, insincere effort to buy votes with massive tax dollars. Fundamentally, it was dishonest because it could not deliver what it promised.

    Now – my thoughts on what might bring me back:

    a) Honesty and Genuineness: I would love to see a mea culpa, full stop, on the Adscam affair. “We’re sorry. Perhaps due to the unfortunate myth of us being the “natural governing party”, we took our position for granted and some of us felt entitled to use the taxpayers dollar for our own personal benefit and for the benefit of our friends. That was unforgiveable and perhaps, for that, we have deserved the treatment we have received at the polls.”

    Humility goes a long way.

    b) A Leader who exemplifies the foregoing: Someone who can articulate a goal that Canadians can get behind. Something more than identifying himself as “better than the other guy”. Someone who has a commitment to this country, broadly speaking (take that as you may) and who, above all else, is not presented as an academic or elitist who “knows better what you need than you do.” An everyman.

    c) My suggestion is that the great middle, the swing vote in Canada is right there. In the middle. They are cautious of grand ideas with large price tags and resent not being paid attention to – constantly standing behind the interest group of the day (gay, aboriginal, women, etc., etc.) This may strike you as just conservative narrow-mindedness.. but consider that Barack Obama refused to be drawn into discussions regarding gay marriage, abortion rights, and other specific interest group demands – and instead, appealed broadly to all people – with ideals of freedom and respect that encaptured all of those subgroups. In other words – we can deliver respect for EVERYONE’s human rights.

    So, then, my suggestion would be to adopt what I might call, “Responsible Liberalism”. We know there is a price for everything the government does, and we will respect that the money comes from you and will be used “in trust” for the interests of all Canadians.. not just a few. We respect the need to help those who need our help, but also the need to encourage those who can help themselves, do so. Liberalism does not equal a “free ride” for the dishonest or the shiftless. (See NDP). Liberalism does not equal every man for themselves. (See neo-Conservative).

    I think with some humility and honesty, with a place in the centre of politics that maintains a strong social safety net that benefits us all, including business interests.. the Liberals will make a comeback.

    Which, IMHO, does not mean considering Justin Trudeau as a leader.

    Just my $.02.

    Best wishes.. as indicated, my vote is for sale – no one deserves it, but all may earn it.

    By Blogger Robert G. Harvie, Q.C., at 11:37 a.m.  

  • Cogently written as usual CG. Sadly, campaign tactics, if pursued relentlessly enough, trump all else (yes, I noticed the pun) as SH has demonstrated over the last ten years. I would characterize your points as the "high road," but the low road must not be neglected whatsoever!

    By Anonymous Brian Wells, Calgary, at 11:44 a.m.  

  • "...but do people honestly think there is anything the Liberals could have done differently?... "

    Well yes..

    They could have avoided completely abandoning their right flank, ran as a party in the middle and not just another party on the left. They could have ran as the party of the economy. They could have ran as an alternative to the Tories.. not an alternative to the NDP.

    They could have avoided cloning Conservative attack ads.

    They could have avoided being so arrogant towards the NDP (refer to Igniatieff's snide remark during the debates).

    They could have promoted the strong Liberal team throughout the campaign.. many of who lost their seat.

    There's lots they could have done differently..

    By Anonymous me dere robert, at 11:46 a.m.  

  • Pretty obious stuff. It was also pretty obvious after 2004 and 2006 etc.

    We will see what actually happens.

    From what I see, the grits have to abolish their old boy's association.

    Need to be open to talent, not pedigree. Have to support fighters and believers, rather than technocrats.

    Have to discard their educated-midde-class caste mentality. Become inclusive.

    You do need educated people to form the government. But, the party should speak for all Canadians.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 11:48 a.m.  

  • Re: Quebec

    The Liberals need to be a national party. Given the changing demographics of the country, you can't afford to write off western Canada either.

    Once the Liberals figure out who their coalition of voters is, they need to target specific subregions. I.e. if this party is going to appeal to people in medium sized cities, then start working on building up the organization in Edmonton, Regina, Quebec City, Victoria, etc.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:52 a.m.  

  • Brian - Campaigns certainly matter. My suggestion is just to get the party's internal house in order first (say, over the next two years), then focus on campaign tactics for the next election, once we have a better idea of what we're up against.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:55 a.m.  

  • The Liberal Party may have much less than 2 years to figure out number 6...

    By Anonymous daveberta, at 12:00 p.m.  

  • They are cautious of grand ideas with large price tags


    Have you read any Harper-era Tory platform or budget?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:11 p.m.  

  • I sent you my answers over email Dan.

    To be honest, I still don't think the Liberals got the message.

    Besides, if they didn't get it in 2006, how could they get it now?

    Twice as many Canadians voted for Harper than the Liberals. THINK ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANS.

    Unless you think Canadians are mostly extremists and/or easily-fooled idiots?

    The Liberals put all their effort into getting power. Put a fraction of that effort into connecting with the voter and they'd have 200 seats. Ironic.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 12:23 p.m.  

  • Daveberta - Well, Harper promised a 3-year phase out in his platform.

    And we all know Stephen Harper would never break an election promise!

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:43 p.m.  

  • A reasonable and thought out post, as always.

    I'm a Conservative so I won't bother posting my (sincere) advice here since I can imagine how it will be received (maybe I'll email it to you).

    But if the parties ever do merge and you find yourself without a home, you're welcome to come over to the Conservative party. :)

    Now for insincere advice - for the next Liberal leader, please choose Bob Rae. Please and thank you.

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 1:09 p.m.  

  • I also just realized - doesn't Ruth Ellen Brosseau now represent a riding which used to be (part of) Chretien's riding?

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 1:35 p.m.  

  • Sharonapple said" "The Liberal road to election success lies through Quebec, always has."

    Not necessarily true. As we can see with Harper, you can win a majority while getting a handful of seats in Quebec. Also true for Chretien, who won a series of majorities with the help of Ontario."

    Sharon, you're right, it is possible to win a majority without Quebec - if you can win heavily in Ontario and the West (I'll discuss the Chretien majorities in a second). But the Liberals are no stronger out west than they are in Quebec (quite the contrary), and they haven't "won" the west in over 60 years (although, I guess they have "won" Quebec in 31 years). So anonymous isn't wrong to say that the "Liberal road" runs through Quebec unless, you think it might be easier to win seats in Western Canada.

    That said, given the shift in population (and therefore seats) to the West, query whether the the Liberal road should run through Quebec, or whether they should try to make inroads out west. If they don't, the Tories will become the natural governing party of the 21st century, with the West serving as the power base for them that Quebec did for the Liberals in the 20th century.

    As for the Chretien majorities,I think Liberals have to stop fixating on them. Yes, Chretien managed to form a majority government by only winning in Ontario. But he did so in unique circumstances, namely the confluence of a divided right and an NDP crippled by Ontario's experience with the Rae government, which circumstances are unlikely to replicated. More importantly, they're not circumstances that the Liberals can replicate. I mean, it's not as if they Liberals can get an NDP government elected in Ontario and pursuade the Tories to form a new conservative party. Liberal strategy can't be premised on their opponents doing their damnest to help the Liberals out.

    In some sense, the Chretien majorities did the Liberals a huge disservice because they masked the very real weakness in the Liberal party - namely the loss of Quebec (the basis for Liberal dominance in the 20th century) in 1984 and dearth of Liberals west of Ontario. Rather then spending the 1990s trying to rebuild their positions in those regions, the Liberals were quite content to surf on their achievements in Ontario. As CG points out, the tendency since 2004 has been to blame the leader, the campaign, the opposition for the Liberal collapse, but it's no coincidence the collapse of the Liberal party since 2000 has coincided with the end of the unique "greenhouse" environment of the 1990s caused by the unification of the right and the rehabilitation of the NDP. Had Chretien faced a united right and a rehabilitated NDP in 1997 or 2000, he wouldn't have done much better than Paul Martin did in 2004.

    By Blogger Carl, at 1:42 p.m.  

  • I think it makes a lot of sense for the Liberals to take aim at Western Canada. Conservative fortresses need to be taken over, and a forward policy is the only way to do that.

    It should be feasible, considering that the Cons are beginning to take the West for granted. However, the pool of leadership candidates is then limited to the three MPs west of Ontario.

    By Anonymous Leo, at 2:17 p.m.  

  • 2. Why should Canadians vote Liberal? (this answer cannot contain the words "NDP" or "Conservative Party" in it)

    This is the most important question. Thanks for reminding me of that one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:44 p.m.  

  • Why are leadership candidates only to be drawn from sitting MPs? That is a dangerous narrowing of potential candidates imo.

    "I have voted conservative ever since the introduction of the Gun Registry. And I don’t own a gun and never have." This, to me, is where I find the biggest struggle. How does one relate to voters with such strong mono-issue ideals? And there are many of them supporting all stripes. It strikes me as voters looking for a reason not to vote for the Liberal party than wanting to vote for another party. I just can't widdle my vote down to one issue that overrides everything else a party might stand for.

    Something else that strikes me as odd is on one hand attempting to be broad tent and appealing to the "great middle" while at the same time determining "what do we stand for". Aren't the two somewhat at odds. How can you stand for something and stand for everything? Obviously it isn't that black or white, but we should be cautious about trying to be too broad in the sense that it could easily render "what we stand for" to vague or incoherent.

    As a side note to this, I think this will be Harper's biggest downfall now that he has a majority. There's a lot of interest groups from the right that have been waiting for a majority to remove all excuses for not implementing their desires. Harper has admittedly moved the party toward a broader, more central policy slate but will he be able to keep it there. Will the social conservatives allow abortion/capital punishment etc to remain off limits? Will Albertans be content to have Ontario voters still drive a meaningful portion of government policy? In some ways, the best thing that can happen for Liberals is Harper having his majority and actually having to keep his party happy and united. Not so easy now that the enemy is hidden away licking it's wounds.

    By Anonymous hazzard, at 2:48 p.m.  

  • Look at the poll results. Outside of Ontario and a few patches in Atlantic Canada, the Liberal infrastructure is gone. The provincial liberal parties, for the most part, have been sitting on their hands. They have to be an active part of the federal party.

    The young are getting engaged in politics. Tap into that sentiment of youth and optimism. That's how you renew an organization.

    Set up think tanks. You have the intellectual capital to do it.

    Most importantly: stand for something other than power.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:54 p.m.  

  • Leo said: "I think it makes a lot of sense for the Liberals to take aim at Western Canada. Conservative fortresses need to be taken over, and a forward policy is the only way to do that.

    It should be feasible, considering that the Cons are beginning to take the West for granted."

    I agree, and I think there is a golden opportunity to appeal to Westerners' populist nature by stealing a page from the old Reform Party platform. A big part of the appeal of Reform was not that they were hard-right, anti-tax, socially conservative, pro-gun, etc, but that they were, at the start, a grassroots organization that promised to bring meaningful democratic reforms, make government more transparent and accountable, empower individual MPs, and give people a greater voice in government. The Harper Conservatives paid lip service to these types of policies initially (particularly because it was a convenient way to bash the Grits over Adscam and the 'culture of entitlement') but once ensconced in office they completely abandoned them and, I would argue, have become worse than the Liberals they used to rail against.

    I think that a Liberal Party that runs on a platform of major political reform with an unabashed populist pitch (not all populists are Tea Party-types) would go a long way to increasing its appeal to Westerners and chipping away at its elitist, 'culture of entitlement' image.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:59 p.m.  

  • I think Dan Arnold should run for LPC president.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 3:00 p.m.  

  • Anonymous, your sentiments on the West and the old Reform platform are interesting. I agree with most of it and glad you notice how Harper et al have abandoned the good stuff such as "meaningful democratic reforms, make government more transparent and accountable, empower individual MPs, and give people a greater voice in government". But it will be a loooooong, painful attempt with faint chance of success in Alberta imo. It boggles my mind how so many here (calgary) continue to absolutely despise the Liberal party sight unseen. You could run a full slate of pedophiles for the Conservatives in Calgary and they'd all get voted it if the only alternative was a Liberal!

    By Anonymous hazzard, at 3:42 p.m.  

  • My opinions as a Conservative should not drive the LPC decisions, but there might be something to examine in why the LPC remains strong in Atlantic Canada (12 of 32 seats). Looking at the seats won in Ontario (11 of 106), Quebec (7 of 75), or the West (4 of 92) doesn't suggest where strength may be built upon.

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

  • Until the Liberals realize that 'One Size Does Not Fit All' they will never gain the West. How many times have they trotted out the national day care with as many different tag names to it?
    If they keep coming up with big Government run National unionized programs that only suck the taxpayers (& the West) dry to feed a voter base in Toronto, they will be in the penalty box for many years to come.
    People don't want big vision or big dreams; they just want a Gov't that'll keep their noses out of provincial politics & stick to what Federal politics should be all about - Security, Foreign Trade, Justice, Defence, immigration, Taxes & the like. To campaign on education, healthcare, daycare etc ... the *RED BOOK* that we've all heard before - was one of their downfalls. & the fact that they campaigned against their own policies ie: corporate taxes & jets. They had also promised to NOT bring the carbon tax back & yet there it was, another hit to the West.

    It should be very clear by now for the Liberal Party to see why voters don't trust them, they seldom say something & then actually stick to it. It's been that way for years now & people are simply tired of it.
    Harper & Layton won for no other reason than people know what they stand for. The Liberal's lost because the only thing they seemed to stand for is gaining power which made itself so very clear 1st with the coalition, 2nd with all the crying wolf & 3rd with the farce of the opposition ruled committee hearings that forced this election.
    Not once in the last 5 years have they been focused on what's good for Canada & Canadians, but only on how to get themselves back into power.
    For people to claim that the attack ads were their downfall, as many are, only means that they haven't learned a thing. #1 thing they need to learn is that people ARE paying attention to what goes on in Ottawa & even out here in the red-neck West ... we CAN read & we're far from stupid.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 p.m.  

  • Uh, the long gun registry was flawed and had most of the negative attributes cited above. As long as a person has to be licensed to buy a long gun, the long gun registry provides minimal, if any, additional protection to the public AFAICT. OTOH, registering a gun doesn't seem like it should be that big a deal - like the registry proponents like to say, we register cars, why not guns; and the billion or 2 that the Liberals blew on it is long gone (an apology would be nice for that, BTW) and won't be recovered by tossing it.

    So I could hardly care less if it stays or goes (unless you can prove I'm wrong to think licensing requirements alone are sufficient).

    OTOH, I live in Vancouver a 1/2 block from where one gangster gunned down another gangster at a time when my kids could be out and about. I didn't see anything concrete from the Liberals on that very real issue (did I miss it?). Just lots of end-of-the-world ramblings about how not requiring *licensed* long gun owners (the vast majority of which are likely rural) to register their long guns puts me at risk - with the implication being that this is more important than hand-gun wielding gangster assassins.

    Sorry, AFAIAC you folks blew it on this one. You wasted energy and capital on something that was politically motivated rather than addressing the real gun issues. Now all you have to do is figure out how that happened.

    BTW, I did vote Liberal in this last election, so, please, no condescending responses like "what do you expect from a Conservative supporter?".

    By Anonymous Jim R, at 5:58 p.m.  

  • Here's the kind of party people could get behind here in Calgary:

    1. First and foremost, balance the damned budget. Don't screw the kids.

    2. With the money you do have, spend that money on health care, on education, on social programs and on crime with the expectation that on all fronts, value will be expected. Empower the provinces and cities of this country to make decisions that benefit their constituencies.

    3. Socially, support the freedoms that Canadians deserve, and protect them from corporations. In particular, protect our privacy, stop arresting kids for pot possession, and don't let corporate shit like UBB happen.

    4. Stop treating primary industries in this country like criminals. Work with the oil sands, forestry and fishing more effectively to make these industries more sustainable. If they need to change, then help them make those changes without animosity. It's -good for business- to have sustainable industries and this is ignored by basically every party.

    5. Given all that's in 1 through 4, deliver practical management of the needs of this country in a way that is transparent, cooperative and focused on delivering value to the people of this country.

    By Anonymous Daniel, at 6:10 p.m.  

  • I know one thing that would be significantly helpful. Stop talking of "The West" as though it were one homogenous blob of like-thinking voters! If we took the regions to their hypothetical end game of independent nations, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC would be far from a united voter's Eden. If the Conservatives made some of their gains by targeting and differentiating Ontario by area codes, surely doing the same with "The West" is in order.

    Secondly, while a renewed focus on Western Canada is surely welcome, I think Calgary is the last place to focus. One does not conquer the Roman Empire by attacking Rome itself.

    It's interesting that above, within the space of a few postings, we have one poster saying the key to success is to stop campaigning on Health Care and Education while another says those two are key to rebuilding the party. Long road ahead, me thinks.

    By Anonymous hazzard, at 7:23 p.m.  

  • Anonymous 2:59 here. I agree with Daniel that a Liberal Party pledged to fiscal responsibility would resonate with Westerners and I expect people elsewhere in the ROC too.

    One of the Liberals' great strengths in the 90s and early 2000s was that they were perceived as prudent and effective fiscal managers after a decade of Tory excess and fumbling under Mulroney. Although we can debate ad nauseum about whether Mulroney paid the political price for unpopular but necessary fiscal measures that would later pay off for the Grits, I personally have always felt that the reason why Paul Martin got a bit of a bump in the West in 2004 was because people felt he was most responsible for getting the financial house in order and was going to keep it that way. Of course, as soon as he got into the PMO Martin veered wildly off the fiscal course and started spending money like there was no tomorrow, throwing cash at every possible interest group in an effort to be all things to all people. Under Martin, the Liberals missed a grand opportunity to reduce Canada's debt and instead took the surplus as a license to start spending money like crazy again. I think that's a reason, apart from Adscam, that he was shown the door in 2006 - he had allowed the Tories to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility and prudent fiscal management.

    Unfortunately, the Tories are still perceived by the public as prudent fiscal managers, despite all evidence to the contrary. I never understood why the Liberals didn't go after Harper hard on this - well actually I do know why, it's because in the early stage of the campaign they were doing the old run to the left, polarize the electorate and marginalize the Dippers routine. Problem was, they couldn't then pivot to the right because people weren't buying it this time. Result? The Tories had the centre-right all to themselves and nobody ever challenged them on their fiscal record. Instead we had all three parties promising outrageous new spending and entitlement programs in an era of multi-billion dollar deficits.

    At the risk of sounding like I'm suggesting that the Liberals should move radically to the right or become some sort of neo-Reform Party, I do think that one of the fatal flaws of the Liberal strategy in this campaign was to try to out-NDP the NDP. If the Liberals want to carve out a space in the 'radical middle', they have to be prepared to go after the Tories' atrocious fiscal record too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:37 p.m.  

  • One minor positive in terms of the party's current caucus makeup: while nearly 50% of our current seats are in the Atlantic provinces, we actually do retain representation in nine of the ten provinces (albeit by the skin of our teeth in Manitoba; thanks, Kevin!), which is not nothing.

    By Blogger Sean C, at 8:12 p.m.  

  • Thoughts.

    Perhaps before Liberals try to define "what we stand for" it might be useful to conduct an indepth cross-country, cross-party allegiance survey to discover what Canadians think "we stand for". A little tough love to go with the election defeat. It's one thing to get dumped because he/she doesn't like you anymore. It's much more valuable to know he/she dumped you because you have bad breath.

    If leader driven politics is distasteful, then why not try something relatively radical like electing a team into leadership? Why not run a campaign stating right off the bat that here is our policy AND here are the people that will make it happen. Tell the electorate right from the get go who will be Minister of Finance etc (their being elected notwithstanding). Take regionalism out of the equation by providing a team of leaders representing each region of the country. It wouldn't be easy, but it would be new and I think something that would get Canadian's attention. If done successfully, it would also provide a sharp contrast to the oft mentioned "too much power in the PMO" argument.


    It would be a far different debate if the oilsands were located in a giant blob between Calgary and Edmonton. I don't think a serious national party should shy away from confronting the oilsands per se. It's easy for the Conservative base in Alberta to demonise anything and anyone that mentions the oilsands are not clean as anti-Alberta etc. but that's nonsense. And I say that as a Calgarian whose household livelihood is completely derived from the oilsands.

    I too think fiscal responsibility was a key to Liberal success in the 90's. A lot of other things went wrong, but the idea of a careful, responsible view to public finances meshed with an open, tolerant view of social issues is what makes the idea of a centrist Liberal party appealing to me. Pay for what we can and need, not for what we wish. Help those up that need a hand. Give those to come (children) the best chance to succeed. Seems pretty simple to me and if that is truly unappealing to a majority of Canadians across this country then I really should just give up completely.

    By Anonymous hazzard, at 8:29 p.m.  

  • We should be the fiscally responsible, but socially Liberal party. We need to steal the good points from both the NDP and the Conservatives if we want to have any chance going forward.

    By Blogger UWHabs, at 10:05 p.m.  

  • they just want a Gov't that'll keep their noses out of provincial politics & stick to what Federal politics should be all about - Security, Foreign Trade, Justice, Defence, immigration, Taxes & the like.

    Musta missed the part of the constitution where it says the feds are responsible for hospitals in Vaughan. Perhaps a Western legal scholar can explain it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:12 p.m.  

  • I'm not a Liberal, and have never voted for the party, so take these responses for what they are worth.

    1. Usually "what a party stands for" is defined in terms of platitudes - say, fiscal prudence, or families, or whatever. This obscures reality, since most parties would say something similar. One must turn to hard questions - to tradeoffs.

    All Canadian parties exist primarily along two spectrums (generally, fiscally conservative parties are also socially conservative). The Liberals are centrists on only one dimension.

    -left-right (here the Liberals are in the middle - supporting a balance between growth and equality)
    -core-periphery (here the Liberals are the party of the core - since Trudeau, they have represented the interests of the industrial base of Canada against those of outlying regions. However the Liberals have always stood up for minorities in outlying areas)

    2. Canadians should vote Liberal because the Liberal Party best represents their interests. ie. there are tangible rewards for voting Liberal.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 11:56 p.m.  

  • 3. Instead of being all things to all people, Liberal policy and rhetoric needs to engage in wedge politics. Liberals must be seen to be against certain things, even if it alienates some voters. You cannot be everybody's friend.

    -Both the Conservatives and NDP are vulnerable on immigration. The Conservative base includes anti-immigrant rednecks and immigrants. The NDP base includes immigrants and Quebec nationalists. The next time a young girl in Quebec is treated like a criminal for wearing a hijab, the Liberals must be heard from. Although on individual issues, a majority tends to oppose the targeted minority, there is a cumulative effect, as other minority groups see the Liberal party as their defender. The Liberals must voice support for minorities that are not traditionally part of their coalition as well - for instance, religious Canadians that fear for their freedom of religion.

    -Secondly, both the Conservatives and NDP have incoherent regional coalitions. The Liberal collapse has given them support in both major cities and the rural periphery. The Liberals should bring back the green shift, but avoid the murky language of everybody wins. It is a lie. Less emission-intensive industries (and the regions that house them) win. Big polluters lose. The Green shift shouldn't just be about the planet. It should make low-emission, high-tech industries and regions salivate. This could be combined with a GST hike, coupled with a big rebate that could offset the additional costs of both the GST and carbon tax for poor families.

    -Thirdly, there is unoccupied space on the national end of the national-provincial divide. For the NDP it is a pro-Quebec sort of decentralism, while for the Conservatives it is of a more general support. Both should be strenuously opposed, with the insistence on a big Canada of individuals, rather than a confederation of regions. The Liberals can uniquely propose an end to blank cheque federalism. For instance, instead of 6% increases in healthcare spending for all eternity, insist on benchmarks like
    A. ensuring money is spent wisely
    B. that the Canada health act is enforced
    C. that certain nationally beneficial things are accomplished (eg. more research, more inter-provincial cooperation).

    -Other big national projects could include a national securities regulator, revitalization of Canada's nuclear industry with federal support, a national elite research university, a reallocation of military spending from boots on the ground and the navy towards dual-use research and development (especially in aerospace), and a crackdown on inter-provincial trade barriers.

    -Finally there are a few fun ideas that could shake up the political world a little. Moving to a system of lifetime income taxation (ie. taxing people based on the amount they have earned through their entire life). Signing a legal contract with monetary penalties if certain Liberal platform promises are not kept. Mandatory voting. A national securities regulator. Revitalization of Canada's nuclear industry with federal support for provinces willing to build reactors. A national elite research university. A reallocation of military spending from boots on the ground and the navy towards dual-use research and development (especially in aerospace). A crackdown on inter-provincial trade barriers.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 11:56 p.m.  

  • 4. Regionally, Liberal support represents an alliance between the core regions of the country - the high-tech industrial-financial base in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and a minority of interests abroad that benefit from a strong federal government. The Liberals are at such low levels of support nationally, that they need to shore up their core groups of support before embarking on a "308 riding strategy" - or even an attempt to hold together the unsustainable Chretien coalition (which only existed because of vote splitting on the right).

    In the core this has traditionally included professionals, workers in high-tech industries, civil servants and immigrants. In the periphery, aboriginals, people in regions reliant on redistribution, and minorities (eg. anglophones in Quebec, francophones abroad).

    A number of other interests are natural constituents for the Liberal message. These include the financial sector, which would benefit from a green shift and from policies like a national securities regulator. Secondly, religious groups and even Ezra Levant (over the HRC thing) view themselves as oppressed minorities. If the Liberals can credibly show that they are willing to defend all minorities, they may expand their tent a little. Thirdly, the transition of Ontario from a have to a have not province represents a real opportunity. As Ontarians become the beneficiaries of equalization payments, they will increasingly seek a strong federal government willing to defend their share of the loot.

    These are related - you need an engaged electorate to raise money. The Tories and NDP have one because they take clear stands on issues that matter to their key constituents, and because they effectively demonize their opponents. The Liberals have always been left-right centrists, but have never been core-periphery centrists. Better communication to key stakeholders of what Liberals are and what they aren't will help overcome the reality that centrists tend to have a hard time generating enthusiasm.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 11:57 p.m.  

  • Random thoughts to think about:

    - "Too left" or "Not right enough"

    The Liberal platform was actually relatively centrist. It didn't strike me as too left or out of the ordinary for the party. The problem that created the appearance of being 'too left' was the coalition talk to the left in addition with the APPEARANCE that we were on the left.

    I think the voters who wouldn't have supported the coalition ended up leaving us this election anyways. We should have just entered into the coalition when its terms were far more favourable to us and we could have bullied the NDP into submission...

    And also... Canadian electoral success is not JUST about being left or right. Politics is more complicated than that. Voters form broad coalitions of different interests, and we've failed to target them with emotional and principled messages that insprie them to make them want to be Liberals.

    - On Leadership:

    There is no doubt that Ignatieff's campaign ability improved during the campaign, but it was too little too late. His leadership sucked, just like Dion, and to a lesser extent, Paul Martin. Canadians, especially Quebecers, voted for Layton because he was an appealing leader who doesn't have the baggage we have.

    Every Liberal knows in the back of their mind of the cognitive dissonance that exists between our recent leaders charisma and other party leaders (such as Layton in particular). We really need to stop hammering at the guy for his ideological convictions and learn from his skills in politicking when he speaks-- he prioritized the right messages to make himself appealing to a wide swath of the electorate. (Why else do you think Quebec voters would elect the Las Vegas girl?!) Leadership matters.

    - On party renewal:

    I hear rhetoric about taking our time to wallow in our despairs... that's really not going to help us or get us anywhere. As you can see in these comments, every person has a different idea of what the Liberal party should be to survive. Welcome to the open secret of the Liberal party--it's membership is diverse as hell and the party through centralization has allowed the party to hide this fact from party members.

    It's not our party that has this problem too. The Tories have it between their Libertarian/Socon base and the NDP have it with their rural union and cosmopolitan urban bases. Focusing too much on party ideology will only increase tensions that do exist inside the party.

    With that said...

    - On internal party culture:

    The Liberal party suffers from a very off putting, clique and elitist party organization. Being an activist within the party is a definite barrier to promotion within party ranks. The natural culture is to activism and to be non-political. And the worst aspect of this comes from the leeches that run rampant in the party. I've seen so many of them, and they contribute butt-f*cking nothing to the organization except to schmooze with positions of perceived power. They suck the party for personal gain without ever giving back. You can thank them for the divisive leadership politics that began our downturn. Many of them are also incredibly arrogant and entitled when they refer to the party--many Canadians notice it, forever cementing the "Liberal Party" with negative connotations of entitlement.

    You can identify the leeches quite easily. Watch for Young Liberals and other party Executives who soon jump ship to the NDP or Conservative organizations now that we're not close to getting back into power. Good riddance to them. Then watch for who actually sticks around, because these are the people who you can ACTUALLY trust for leadership positions within the party.

    By Anonymous Disgruntled Liberal, at 11:59 p.m.  

  • - If we don't merge with the NDP, here is a list of some thing to focus on:

    1. Get a politically skilled charismatic leader. Someone who actually inspires people or carries folksy charm.

    2. Clean house of longtime former organizers out of ideas and get rid of the leeches from important party positions.

    3. Take no region for granted and run a 308 riding strategy for long term development. This goes against Liberal instincts of instant gratification, but its our noncompetition in our poor showing areas that cemented our longterm decline.

    4. Move past left-right debates and identify emotional issues to wedge away NDP and Tory voters.

    - If we do merge with the NDP and/or greens:

    1. Keep the wide ideological and regional divides together by strictly subjecting in the party constitutions ALL party nominations to primary-style nomination races. Yes, this will get messy, but it's the only realistic way people could come together under a broad centre-left coalition involving union and business voters. It's how the Democrats in the states keep it together. Yes, that means even crazy pro lifers should get the shot to run with the party if they win the nomination races. Just like the Democrats.
    2. Decrease the power of whipping by the leader.
    3. Put policy decisions back into the MP's who know best what they need to be elected. Allow this trust to be placed to MP's by ensuring they are subject to strict nomination/primary requirements so they're accountable to their local organizations.


    Frankly, I'm at the point where I don't mind a merger of the NDP and Liberals. With so many years of power, the Liberal brand is tattered. In the interior of BC and Alberta, the "Liberal Party" name is approaching the level of becoming a swear word. It’s simply not the effort for someone like myself to invest my time into the party there. It would be easier to start again than to spend decades rebranding ourselves without success since we’ll never get the proper resources from the current party to rebuild there. Start the Liberal Democrats and you have everyone’s attention again.

    I really don't think people realize how ideologically similar every federal party was this election. The NDP is no longer the party of socialism, and its internal organizers are much more pragmatic than we give them credit for.

    The talk of the merger emphasizes something that is a bigger problem in the Liberal party: it's inherent difficulty to keep 'left' and 'right' wing parts of its organization together. Our toxic leadership problems are a product of the inherent ideological instability that forms the foundation of our whole party.

    I personally think for far too long the 'left' within the party have been talked down to for way too long. Ignatieff's leadership coup d'etat after the coalition attempt showed just how far the internal party appratchiks would go to prevent a true centre-left alliance from forming. And now thanks to them, our party is facing potential oblivion.

    By Anonymous A so-called "Liberal" (Whatever that means these days...), at 12:06 a.m.  

  • The liberals must get an interm leader for a couple of years then elect a leader via an election. And he must be young. How old will Rae be in 2015. This new leader must lead for a couple of years, preferable from the HofC.
    However, I think that within a year or maybe less, Jack will lose a lot of his new members as they will revolt and go back to their true leanings, the Bloc. Jack can't give Que what he promised and Que will be unhappy. The constitution will not be reopened. French will not be mandatory for federal jobs. your next leader could be out there, not in the HofC, so find your possibilities and get them elected in the by-elections as they occur.
    Whoever you elect must be around 40 in 2014-15, prepared to get back to no. 2 and in 2019-20 go for the big prize.

    By Blogger maryT, at 12:07 a.m.  

  • Almost makes me want to go out and buy a membership. I have not held any membership in any party, yet, if the LIEberals actually listen to your ideas, in four to eight years you might have a minority government. Yet, if you keep the "old guard" and leaders like Bob Rae, you will have no chance. I think if you play your cards right, you might get some of those young NDP children to cross over to your party.

    Calgary Grit is the only LIEberal that is the most balanced and the site would be the best place for you to express your views ... 90% of other sutes would not have suggestions like you presented. You would be marked as trators.

    By Anonymous Clown Party, at 1:54 a.m.  

  • You can ignore my Conservative advice if you like, but here it is:

    @the hazard: "It would be a far different debate if the oilsands were located in a giant blob between Calgary and Edmonton. I don't think a serious national party should shy away from confronting the oilsands per se."

    I beg to differ. A serious national party knows damn well that a significant number of east coast families are still living there because a breadwinner (mother or father) is commuting long-distance to Fort Mac. A significant number of Ontario families are doing okay because the oil from Fort Mac is processed in Sarnia & other Ontario cities. A significant number of farming families are still on the family farm (which is economically a crap shoot) because someone in the family is working in oil, likely derived from the oilsands. And Saskatchewan is starting to exploit their oilsands (the dinosaurs didn't all die at the AB/SK border after all).

    And where are you going to get the cash for transfer payments if AB joins the have-nots?

    The Liberal Party would NEVER attack the manufacturing sector in Ontario (or coal-fired electrical plants, which emit the same or more than the oilsands). EVER. You don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The fact that the eggs are becoming fewer and far between appears to be irrelevant. But the oilsands? No problem. How stupid is that? Did you notice that the Green vote dropped significantly this past election? More concentrated, so Elizabeth May gets a seat at the table, but dropped significantly. Economy trumps environment every time (see Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Newfoundland, etc.)

    I would bet that as long as there are enough people alive in AB that were old enough to see the destruction of the NEP, the Liberal brand is dead in Alberta except for small pockets here & there.

    If you merged (ROFLMAO like Jack will entertain that idea now) and rebranded as Liberal Democrats (such hubris, of COURSE the smaller faction's name should be first) it might fly but you probably need to take a page out of the Alberta Party's book and "start" a new party with the same people under a different name. Non-political-junkies will fall for it as long as the MP-candidate names change. Otherwise, not so much IMHO.

    Liberal backroom boys and campaign managers need to wrap their heads around the internet and it's implications on elections and the electorate. You can no longer say one thing in Alberta (Jack & Mike) and something completely different in Toronto or Montreal and not get your a$$ handed to you on a platter. I can't believe that after the mess that was Paul Martin, the Liberal braintrust hasn't begun to wrap their heads around the need for a consistent message. Laugh at teleprompters all you like. The man with the teleprompter is sleeping in 24 Sussex tonight.

    By Blogger Candace, at 1:56 a.m.  

  • It strikes me that the differences between Liberal and NDP perspectives (though real) seem inconsequential COMPARED to our common differences with the Regressive Conservatives.

    Since the PC/Alliance merger (or even Turner/Mulroney), the quarrel between NDP and Liberals has simply handed victory to the right. If the Liberals were to swap places with the NDP in 2015, would the result be any different?

    I have several thoughts on this:

    1) Electoral reform is a top priority, not a sideshow. 40% of the vote should not enable any government to rule alone, especially not when a majority oppose their key policies.

    2)Our political system lacks the checks and balances of the U.S constitution. The power of our Prime Ministers is grossly inflated relative to that of the Cabinet and individual M.P.s. We live now under something resembling an elective monarchy. The dangers this presents are particularly acute with a P.M. like Mr Harper.

    3)Reform of the political parties, including the role of committees and the party whip system is urgently necessary for the health of our democracy. The great democratic advance of public funding for political parties will slso need to be restored.

    4) The Conservatives would not attain government under any system of proportional representation in the foreseeable future. Therefore it is up to the centre-left to deliver any reform of the franchise.

    4) None of the necessary reforms has a ghost of a chance without - at a minimum - close cooperation among the opposition parties. Indeed, a merger may be the only way to stop a conservative revolution comparable to that in the USA between Reagan and Bush II.

    Please lend your voices to a discussion among reasonable people on the centre-left as to how to mount a common front to stop Harper. We need to consider above all the democratic principles we hold in common - and the threat posed by a Conservative hegemony.

    And don't rule out a merger. No political party is more important than the country.

    Your thoughts? Respectfully - a 30 year Dipper.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:01 a.m.  

  • BTW, what about an analysis of the Conservatives and NDP? What did they do right?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:06 a.m.  

  • An excellent post from Calgary Grit, as usual. I've emailed my suggestions re what the Liberal party should be all about. I think that's the primary question. The rest follow.

    I see a lot of posters above figuring out (a) who the Liberals might get votes from, then (b) creating policies to match. That kind of thinking is exactly what's led to the current dismal situation.

    Also, I see someone's wisely pointed out that Liberals are diverse. Of course, they are; that's how parliamentary democracy works.

    Parties are broad coalitions of interests and communities. But they also need a core identity - ideas that all the constituents agree with.

    The Tories and the NDP are clear on this, while Liberals seem muddled. Indeed, many Liberals seem to think the party's core values are compromise and accommodation.

    But that's just another was of saying the party stands for nothing. Which isn't exactly inspiring.

    By Blogger Brian from Toronto, at 7:23 a.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 8:47 a.m.  

  • First they need to get a good interim leader, though he is well liked Ralph Goodale cannot speak French therefore I think he should be out of the running. Bob Rae seems like a likely choice but I think Carolyn Bennett (who I guess speaks French) or Marc Garneau might be better. Bennett would really add something different to the party seeing she'd be the first female to hold the leaders post. Of course the interim leader is just a small part of what needs to be done.

    The interim leader should stay on for roughly two years and the party's leadership election campaign should be a year long, if Toronto can have a nine month mayoral election campaign why not a yearlong Liberal leadership campaign? There needs to be a generational change within the Liberal Party and personally I think the next leader needs to be under 50, though there's no need to have certain criteria for the next leader ex. must be a Francophone.

    I thinking waiting a period of time to start the leadership campaign will allow us to see who the real stars within the party are, and a yearlong leadership campaign will mean there is time for all Canadians to see who they like for leader.

    One thing I think needs to be done is that the federal Liberals need to reconnect with their provincial counterparts. In Alberta for example the two parties have been separate for 30+ years yet ideologically both parties are similar. While the Alberta Liberals may not be overly successful they are the Official Opposition and have a stronger base then the federal Liberals do in the province. The party should at least try and build relationships with the Liberal parties whom they are similar with.

    They obviously need to get the grassroots involved and I think in some cities instead of having multiple riding associations, if they in fact exist at all, they should have an association for that city. It seemed like the NDP probably shared some resources in this election in both the St. John's ridings and it paid off with two big wins. They need to put focus on rural areas as well. The next leader needs to get great candidates in place early, through a proper nomination process, so that there is no scramble just before the election. We all knew this election was coming for a long time and the Liberals still weren’t prepared with candidates. They had MPs who decided not to seek re-election at the last minute so they were in a scramble to find someone to run. In Newfoundland and Labrador’s biggest riding they never fielded a candidate till after the election was called and even then they only open nominations for probably 24 hours.

    Fundraising needs to become a priority. I think it was Rob Silver who said that Conservatives members feel that by being a member they are obligated to donate money but Liberal members don’t. Justin Trudeau is supposedly a great fundraiser so they need to use this to their advantage. They should also be looking at small fundraisers they can hold in ridings, I’m a member of the PC Party and in our district we hold an annual hockey game featuring MHAs and former local hockey players. This year I believe around $4,000 was made and we kept half for ourselves and the other half was given to the areas youth hockey association. All this money adds up.

    The party needs to get a clear message in place, they’re suppose to be fiscally responsible and socially progressive but the “Family Pack” didn’t seem to put much focus on the economy. Their base needs to be identified so they are aware what kind of platform to create. They also need to be able to take back support from both the NDP and Conservatives, this last election seemed to only be about trying to squeeze the NDP out with their NDP-lite plate form.

    I could probably go on and on but I’m bored now.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 8:49 a.m.  

  • @candace

    I didn't say to shut the oilsands down. I didn't say to tax Alberta into oblivion. This is the common reaction to even the slightest questioning of anything in Alberta's oilpatch. It's so frustrating and tiring.

    Just because a particular industry provides jobs and financial resources it is beyond reproach? Spare me. I'm not talking emissions taxes or what not, but there is certainly room for making sure that water resources, for example, are protected. Not all Albertans make a living from oilsands.

    My point remains, even Albertans would have a far different attitude toward the free for all of oilsands development were they not located far from sight or impact on the bulk of the population!

    As for Ontario, has the provincial government not already made it a goal to rid the province of coal fired generation? I'm not sure but I thought I read something along those lines. This continual argument is so similar to one my children, "but so and so gets to". Well, as my mother always said, "If so and so jumped off a bridge would you?" ;o)

    By Anonymous hazzard, at 10:23 a.m.  

  • And if the Liberals take two years to pick anew leader, in violation of their own constitution, with accompanying infighting, they will be under 10 seats in 2015 and will cease to exist before 2019.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:13 p.m.  

  • An interesting string of comments and an interesting original post.
    As an outsider to the Liberal Party but a long time political observer I am responding to the question “What do we stand for?” by saying what it looks like the Liberal Party stands for. This will look at what the party has done, not what it has said it will do.
    1. Power: the members of the party want to be in power and believe they should be in power. This was the message that Ignatieff carried throughout a good part of the last campaign. The most glaring historical example of it that I have observed was when Trudeau ran a whole campaign against wage and price controls in the early seventies then implemented them shortly after winning the election. It was certainly clear that the party wasn’t running on ideology. This is often, charitably, called pragmatism.
    2. Centralization of power: this might be a side effect of having been the federal government for so long but at its heart the party doesn’t seem to accept that Canada is a federation, it wants to control everything. I don’t know how far back this goes but probably to at least the second world war and C. D. Howe as the ‘minister of everything’.
    3. Belief that the important part of the country lies within the Toronto – Montreal – Ottawa triangle and managing everything through that lens. Two easy examples of policies illustrating this are the long gun registry and the National Energy Program. You can argue the benefits vs. risks of this focus. It has the obvious benefits of concentrating on riding rich areas with many common interests but when something happens that causes you to lose this support you are suddenly in deep doo-doo.
    4. Belief that the government can best make every decision (every dollar is best directed through Ottawa then sent back out as program spending). A recurring example of this is the multi-election promise of a national day care program. This is probably how the Liberal Party gets its reputation as a left of centre party. I think some of this comes from philosophy, some comes from the centralization belief and some comes from the belief that this is the best way to gain and retain power.
    I know that not every Liberal will agree with this view but that is what it looks like to me. If you want to figure out where you want to go it is important to know where you are to start or you will have a difficult time getting to your desired destination.

    By Anonymous George O., at 1:24 p.m.  

  • The Liberal Party would NEVER attack the manufacturing sector in Ontario (or coal-fired electrical plants, which emit the same or more than the oilsands).

    The coal-fire plants are being shutdown.

    I'm curious on the data comparing the emissions from the tar sands in Alberta and manufacturing on Ontario. Emissions graph from the various provinces from 2005. Alberta beats Ontario with total emissions even though there are approximately 13 million people in Ontario and 3.7 million in Alberta.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 3:38 p.m.  

  • 1) Stop pitting region against region. Screw the West win the rest doesn't work anymore.

    2) Stop referring to the Oilsands as the Tarsands outside of the province, because, you know, Albertans can actually read or watch the news and realize you are crapping on us.

    3) Lose a lot of words from the official vocabulary like redneck, bigot, oil baron, evangelical, etc.

    4) Treat Christianity with the same level of respect that the party reserves for other religions, like, I don’t know, Islam.

    5) Stop demanding that Alberta needs to pay its fair share and acknowledge the massive transfer payments the province makes and the stimulus that is generated in other provinces. Enforcing environmental concerns on the province is a good thing.

    6) Realize that Canadians actually have brains. Don’t harp on the Conservatives for running the biggest deficit ever after a global economic meltdown, because Canadians realize that your party bent the Cons over a table and forced them to run the huge deficit over threat of bringing down the minority government. Do take credit for the improvement of the economy by pointing out that you forced the Conservatives to provide Stimulus to the economy.

    7) Stop looking for the Messiah of your party, the Messiah died long ago. Do strengthen the party and its brand.

    8) Change the leadership selection process to um, anything else other than what is currently in place. Openly displaying the pursuit of power might be thrilling for you but regular folks won’t give you the same opinion.

    9) Please do not select Justin Trudeau or Bob Rae as your new leader. I repeat, do not select them. We told you guys about Martin, and Dion, and Ignatieff, and look what happened. And we reserve the right to laugh mercilessly if you do.

    10) Now this one is hard. Give credit when the Cons do something right, as infrequent as that may be. Better yet, take credit, saying that they finally listened to you and look how good it turned out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:55 p.m.  

  • Is it the West or Alberta? As I said before, EVERYONE can stop considering the West as one homogenous blob in the image of Alberta.

    2) How about everyone call them Bitumen sands everywhere because that's what it is called in the industry. And besides, if we're supposed to stop thinking Albertans are stupid then lets stop thinking everyone else is stupid and that using oil instead of tar or any other prefix changes anything about the stuff and/or how it's extracted, upgraded or used.

    3) Agreed

    4) In fact, leave religion out of everything. It has no place in the running of the country, thank you very much.

    5) Fine. Can Albertans also then stop acting like they invented oil and acknowledge that their natural resource wealth is just luck; a fluke of humanity's need for boundary drawing?

    6) All parties would have run big deficits since 2008. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. But wouldn't it have been impressive had the Conservatives, supposedly the most fiscally prudent, actually stood by their supposed beliefs and taken THAT, deficit spending, to the people in an election? I would have respected that far more than what they did do.

    7) Absolutely agree.

    8) Not sure it's fair to criticize an open Liberal leadership race as an unappealling to regular folks. I think it would be good. My youthful political fires were first lit with the Turner/Chretien battle way back when. Surely this spectacle gave the PC/Alliance/Conservative some much needed excitement and attention.

    9) I agree. Both would be silly, but particularly Mr. Rae. That would be pure folly imo. Just pack it in if he's the best option.

    10) Quite frankly, wouldn't it be great if all parties did this?

    By Anonymous Hazzard, at 5:27 p.m.  

  • "Thirdly, the transition of Ontario from a have to a have not province represents a real opportunity. As Ontarians become the beneficiaries of equalization payments, they will increasingly seek a strong federal government willing to defend their share of the loot."

    Ontario doesn't recieve Equalization "loot" from other provinces. It gets some of its money back, in that sense Ontario is unique among have not provinces as technically it is a reciever of payments but really it is a net contributor to the equalization pool and the largest one in absolute dollar terms. Its just that in per capita terms when all the contributions are counted Ontario needs some money back to raise it upto the national standard but the rest of its contribution goes to other have not provinces.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:21 p.m.  

  • @sharonapple88: Did you read the whole link? Ontario promised to have them ALL shut down by 2007. *crickets*

    Curious re: 2005 emissions. Was that before or after the mfg economy in Ontario tanked? (Serious question, I don't know.)

    Regardless, CANADA (all of us) generates 2% - TWO PERCENT - of the world's GHG emissions. What difference, honestly, can we make? If we either shut down or regulate to the point of shut down, the oilsands, how will the world's GHG emissions improve? Seriously. The whole friggin' country could ditch furnaces & hot water heaters & vehicles and... would anyone outside of Canada see a difference?

    RELEVANCE, people, RELEVANCE. This is the age of information. You can no longer spew BS and expect it to be swallowed whole.

    No. The "west" is not all about Alberta. Neither are the oilsands. Yes, the producers could improve and to my knowledge, are. Regularly.

    Quick question: do you drive? Heat your home? Use hot water regularly? If "yes" to any of the above, welcome to the reality of living in a northern climate.

    Re your point of the oilsands being untouchable. Well.

    ABC in Newfoundland, anyone?
    Quebec on Churchill Falls?
    yadda yadda yadda

    Sauce for the goose.

    My point, perhaps not greatly delivered, remains. The oilsands are NOT just about Alberta, but name me a non-CPC politician that bothers to recognize that. Please.

    And "hidden agenda" comes to mind anytime a politician says one thing in one jurisdiction (AB, for example) and something different elsewhere in the country.

    Extra points if you can provide either a clip or a news article (factual) showing PMSH changed his tune from province to province. And as a complete Anglophone, I will resist any quoted changes that result from translation issues as, if I recall from Jr High French (and Google) that verbs & nouns show up in different and somewhat confusing places in the two languages.

    By Blogger Candace, at 4:04 a.m.  

  • Candace makes a point I very much agree with: Canada contributes 2% of world carbon emissions.

    So no amount of cutbacks in Canada will make any difference at all to the world's environment.

    Even if Canada were erased from the globe, increased carbon output from China and India would replace our carbon footprint by next year.

    If we can persuade the big polluters - China, India, Russia, the US - to cut their emissions, we should certainly follow suit and do our bit.

    Otherwise, we're just making noises to make ourselves feel virtuous.

    I've no objection to this. What's wrong with feeling virtuous?

    But surely cheap feelings should come cheap.

    The NDP's proposed $7.5 billion cap and trade tax on industry, struck me as rather a large price tag for a wholly vacuous feeling.

    Besides, the attempt to impose any sort of carbon tax has fallen behind reality. I mean, people, haven't you gassed up your car lately?

    And high gas (and oil) prices aren't new. Prices really started sky-rocketting prices a few years ago, just before the last election, pre-empting Dion's announcement of a green shift.

    Who needed a carbon tax when gas in Toronto was just easing down from $1.20 a litre - and in Montreal from more than $1.30?

    By Blogger Brian Henry, at 7:44 a.m.  

  • CG, great points! I think 1 and 2 are the most important and will be the hardest to figure out and to agree on.

    We definitely need to move beyond the "vote for me cause the other guy is scarry" attitude that has taken over cdn politics.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:58 a.m.  

  • Admittedly I have not read all the comments, but I have skimmed over most of them, and read a few. What I have not seen coming from anywhere is a mention of the absolute strategic blunder Michael Ignatieff, or his advisors, made in forcing the election in the first place.

    Th "contempt of parliament" spin was doomed from the get-go, partly because the Liberals had the baggage of adscam to carry - and no, it hasn't gone away - as well as a complete sense of cynicism in the public. "Contempt of Parliament? Ha! -I- hold POLITICIANS in general in contempt" or, "Politicians do what politicians do. This is BS." was the main attitude of Joe Average Canadian.

    The Liberals also failed to present an exciting, engaging platform which caught on with the Public. P.E.T., arguably the Worst Prime Minister Ever campaigned on "A Just Society" which caught on. Chretien campaigned on "Jobs Jobs Jobs" which, given Kim Campbell's accurate but stupid comment that "unemployment is likely to be near 10% for the rest of the decade" caught on. (the fractured right wing also helped, of course.) Harper capitalized on Adscam and also lowering the GST.

    The turning point, where Ignatieff really lost the election was the Leader's debate. Layton didn't score a knockout punch, but Ignatieff didn't respond well enough to Layton's attack over his attendance record. Layton also played well with his "hashtag fail" remark. That was a brilliant line which engaged the Twitter community.

    Ignatieff lost the election at the debates, but he sealed his fate with "rise up", arguably one of the worst campaign speeches since Howard Dean's scream (which wasn't entirely Dean's fault) and then, instead of just moving on, in a move I found hilarious, the Liberal Campaign Elves set it to music and posted it to YouTube! Ignatieff came across like a bad motivational speaker, and gave the amateur and professional sound and video editors fodder to use for weeks.

    Election campaigns are strange creatures, and can, as we saw in this one, turn on a dime, but in the final analysis, this one was a campaign launched with no foundation and collapsed after some very bad strategic moves.

    By Blogger Steven C. Britton, at 10:29 a.m.  

  • Comment to Steven C. Britton re. the post on the election campaign.

    This is a good summary of what happened; I think the question is why this happened.

    I think Ignatieff spent too much time talking to the faction of the Liberal Party who seem to have the attitude that all you need to do is show up and, by default, the majority of the electorate will vote Liberal.

    The failure of this belief, and the fact that it exists in the first place, is why the Liberal Party needs a re-think and a re-build.

    By Anonymous George O., at 11:53 a.m.  

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