Wednesday, July 04, 2007

New Liberal: the Liberals Need to Break With The Past

The Liberal brass seeks continuity with the past. Only in Canada would a supposedly liberal party stress tradition as much as this one. What the Liberals should be looking to do is to break with their past (their most recent past anyway) and not embrace it. The Liberal Party is not going to get back into power promising to be same old good economic managers minus the corruption associated with the sponsorship program. Indeed, the economy is not tanking. So the solid Economic stewardship card does not even have superficial appeal.

If the Liberals are going to avoid being forgotten altogether, they are going to have to do two things. First, they are going to have to undermine the impression that Harper is becoming more and more moderate. This does not mean alleging that he has some kind of hidden agenda or even destructing rhetoric designed to deceive the Canadian public. It means proposing policies, a la SSM, that will radicalize the Tories’ social conservative base and so force Harper into the open. Provided that they have chosen their issues carefully, the Liberals should be able to define Harper as being the antithesis of what modern urban Canada considers itself to be, viz., pluralistic, modern, open minded, tolerant, and pragmatic. The public will only take notice if there are two clearly defined camps.

Second, and really the flip side of the first, the Liberals need to introduce policies that will get people talking. This means fist of all proposing policies that the public has the facility to talk about, again a la SSM, and can understand if only at an elementary level. What might qualify?
Well, the Liberals so called three pillars certainly do not. They are nothing but fluffy mush brain nonsense. After all, who is not for a “richer, greener and a fairer Canada”? The devil is in the details. Here are some candidates.

1)Propose scrapping the monarchy

2)Propose mandating 4 weeks vacation a year

3)Propose free dental care

4)Propose Legalizing euthanasia

5)Propose Legalizing marijuana

6)Propose abolishing the senate

7) Again propose banning hand guns

8) Mandatory voting.


Steve V said...

"Propose Legalizing marijuana"

I really like this one. The majority favors legalizing, and you can tie the social component to crime.

Brian in Calgary said...

If I'm not mistaken (and if I am, I apologize) scrapping the monarchy would require the unanimous support of the federal government and ALL the provinces. I don't think such unanimity is forthcoming any time soon.

Scott Tribe said...

You forgot proposing Mixed Member Proportional Representation electoral reform.

Calgary Junkie said...

You are better off trying to unite the left. Make the case to Layton and May that a united party in power will at least get some of their agendas enacted.
Divided parties in opposition will get very little of their agendas passed.

So everybody swallow their pride, be willing to blow up their organizations, and have a quick leadership convention (with a maxiumum of six candidates, to make it interesting). The biggest problem is convincing Layton and May that the name of the united party should remain LIBERALS.

At least it's worth pursuing behind closed doors over the summer and would be way more productive than flipping burgers and learning english.

Koby said...

I am not convinced it is in the best interests for the Liberals as a part to unite the left.

For at its best, the NDP has provided an invaluable service to all Canadians; it widened the Canadian political debate and did so by historically being the most ideological of the major political parities. Parties concerned with the “art of the possible” are not infusing the political debate with new ideas with little chance of furthering their party at the polls. They are reactive. However, the catch 22 of such pragmatism is that such parties concede some of the field to those who are not so cautious. To use an evolutionary metaphor, the politically brave and ideologically pure help determine the policy areas to be discussed; the powerful and pragmatic determine what policies get accepted. Historically, the NDP were able to get “results” for Canadians in two ways. One, they played king maker in several Liberal minority governments. Two, they were able to achieve successes at a distance by continually infusing the political arena with new policy ideas. Either way the Liberal party benefited. By infusing the political arena with ideas from a leftist perspective, the NDP shifted the political debate in Canada leftward, leaving Liberals and not the Progressive Conservatives as the “natural governing party of Canada”.

That said, the problem is that NDP at its worst is what it is under Jack Layton, viz., a soulless new left identity politics party and a pragmatic one at that. Under Layton, the NDP no longer champion European social democracy, a la Tommy Douglas. One consequence of this is that the gulf between Europe and Canada in many areas is simply enormous. The Europeans are light years ahead on a whole variety of issues.

With the NDP serving no useful purpose at this moment, it is falls to the Liberals to pick up the slack. The party must find a way of redefining what it means to be Liberal and what policies flow from such a definition. At the same time the party must be aware of the constraints and pragmatic considerations placed on any party hopping to form the next government. This is no simple feet and not one that they will be able to maintain for a long period of time. I have suggested elsewhere that Trudeau’s full blooded social liberalism, circa 1968-69, should be taken as one model and “cool Canada” (liberalizing marijuana laws, staying out of Iraq and SSM) circa 2003 as another.

PR: I am not sold on proportional representation. It just as often serves as a barrier to chance (Italy is a great case in point) as harbinger of one. One thing I am sold on is this. The amount of seats allotted to each province should be proportional to the amount of people living there. Currently that is not the case. Places such as PEI and Saskatchewan, for example, have way more clout on a per capita basis than either Alberta or Ontario. Part of this is an artifact of the past. PEI, for example, can not have less seats than senators.

This situation can be corrected if the government was to commit itself to giving an MP for every 70,000 people the new numbers would break down as follows. Ontario would gain 67 seats, Quebec 27, BC 23, Alberta 19, and Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia 2 each. All total, a 142 seats should be added, most of those in Urban areas. There would still be outliers. PEI, and the territories would still be over represented, but I do not think this would bother anyone.

I am staunch republican and do not have the time of day for the monarchy, but you are right; it would take a good deal of constitutional wrangling. That said, even if only a trail balloon, something would be nice.

Koby said...

Propose Legalizing marijuana"

I really like this one. The majority favors legalizing, and you can tie the social component to crime.

It is certainly one of my favorites. The thought the Conservatives defending the old reefer madness myths makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Anonymous said...

It is high time pot is legalized.