Sometimes when people talk about the Liberals needing to move to the center what they mean to this. The Liberals need to pander to the god gays and guns crowd to again seize power. I could not imagine a worse approach and one that would fatally damage the Liberal brand. The Liberal brand really shines through when the party is aggressively pursuing socially liberal policies. It was certainly true in 1968 and it was true in 2003. If for no other reason than who we are is wrapped up in who we are not, viz., not Americans and America is a conservative nation, Canadians want a “cool” Liberal party. Quebecers want a “cool” Liberal party. They do not want a Tim Horton’s coffee drinking Michael Ignatieff trying to be one of them. Besides the research is abundantly clear on this; lower income voters give much bigger weight to economic issues than to social ones. It is the well to do, that care most about social issues and Canada’s well to do are socially liberal.
As for Canadians outside of major centers, if you want to make headway with that group you promise to improve their economic lot. The Torries have done this. They promise them tax cuts every election and have more or less cornered the market in that regard. The Liberals need to promise to reduce expenses in a way the population can get their head around and that is by again embracing universality. People do not understand or care about means tested policies and this is all the Liberals have offered up for decades now. You can not strengthen your brand by proposing a means tested policy. Furthermore, the population knows that a means tested policy is politically vulnerable and is likely to be chopped in hard times or in Tory times. However if you think raising taxes is a hard see just try cutting a universal social program. A popular universal social programs quickly become part of what it means to be Canadian and real boon to the party that introduced it.