Friday, October 17, 2008

The Liberals can not afford to move to “the Center”

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.

13 comments:

Ron said...

I won't argue you basic assumptions because they rest more on opinion that certifiable facts. The problem I see for the Liberal party is that it lost its social values credentials when Chretien/Martin cut billions in transfers to the provinces, severly hurting health care (still not recovered from that) and education. They threw away the economic credentials when the party permitted Dion to launch the Green Shift scheme. The constant pandering to every left wing group reminds many of the NDP. The Liberal party, simply put, is neither believable nor relevant to the majority of Canadians. The soul of the Liberal party has disappeared and is now whatever the current Liberal leader says it is. Conservatives (and many others) see Mr. Harper as the face of a Conservative party with core principals while the Liberal party is a wishy-washy group willing to jump from one policy to another based on the leader or the internal polls. You can dump Dion but until your party finds its soul and becomes relevant to me and many other voters, your numbers will continue to decline and Conservatives will continue to expand their base.

DeanC said...

The liberals need to stay in the center but maybe move more right of where they are, the left is just too crowded.

The days of winning 100 seats in Ontario are done, there is no more vote splitting on the right to make this happen. The Bloc is a reality in Quebec for the foreseeable future. If our vote base is only Toronto, Montreal and Atlantic, we are done forever.

We ran around 15% or less in SK and AB, ran in 4rth place behind the greens in many AB and BC ridings. We can’t continue to just concede these seats. Overall westerners haven’t forgiven the Libs for gun control, yet we still talk about more. The 30 year ago national energy program has a half life similar to plutonium. The Carbon tax only exacerbated this.

I am not saying that the green shift is bad policy, I actually support it, a few tweaks and it wouldn’t have to be toxic for SK and AB, what truly bothers me is that nobody cared to try, or even sell the benefits out here. It may seem that I only care about AB and SK votes, but results are showing that what the Libs are doing aren’t playing well in Rural BC, MB or ON either.

IF we go to a new leader, I sure hope it is not someone from big city Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver who have no understanding of how people live outside of the big cities.

Hishighness said...

I'm a Liberal and I pretty much like where we are in the political spectrum, about halfway between the center and the far lefties of the NDP. As for trying to appeal to the right the right got a third of the vote on Tuesday while the left got the rest... Gee, which way would I go...

Joseph said...

I think you have a distorted view of where the center is.

This isn't South Carolina. It's Canada.

If you don't believe me, go live there a while.

Advocating policies aimed at the middle class of generally progressive Canadians is hardly radical. It is where the Liberal party traditionally resides.

Koby said...

>>>> They threw away the economic credentials when the party permitted Dion to launch the Green Shift scheme.

I see somehow as being listening to Harper’s bullshit. Look a carbon tax is neither “unproven” or “crazy”. Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland all of a carbon tax and recently 230 Canadian economists put their weight behind a carbon tax.

>>>> The constant pandering to every left wing group reminds many of the NDP.

What are you talking about? The signed on for another tour in Afghanistan, and central blank in their platform was a proposal to introduce a regressive tax to make up for lost revenues caused by a cut in personal income taxes.

>>>> The Bloc is a reality in Quebec for the foreseeable future.

The Bloc is right for the picking. Duceppe might pack it in and Bloc bled more votes to both the NDP and Liberals than they picked up from the Conservatives. Their share of the popular vote was down. If the election proved anything it was the Conservatives do not share a world view with most Quebecers. The Liberals need to show they do and with the sovereignty issue now on the backburner they Liberals actually have a chance.

>>>> Overall westerners haven’t forgiven the Libs for gun control, yet we still talk about more.

To lump Vancouver together with Regina and Calgary is ridiculous. “The West” as a voting block is dead. As for gun control, it is just as popular in Vancouver as it is in Toronto and Montreal. It is shame the Liberals did not again promise to ban hand guns. It would have been popular with female voters. Instead, Dion decided to campaign on nothing but the green shift.

>>>> Advocating policies aimed at the middle class of generally progressive Canadians is hardly radical. It is where the Liberal party traditionally resides.

When it comes to social issues I am not talking about mushy, boring, safe feel good nonsense that has gotten the Liberals nowhere and will not get the Liberals anywhere in the future. I am talking about polices that will actually excite people the way Trudeau’s omnibus bill did 1968 and how SSM, Staying out of Iraq and promise to liberalize Canada’s marijuana laws did in 2003. Promise to legalize marijuana and euthanasia and maybe even prostitution.

As for social programs, I am talking about things such a universal dental care.

DeanC said...

Koby,

Re: Gun Control
Just how many ridings did the liberals win outside of cities excluding Atlantic Canada? Gun control is a pure wedge issue for a rural/urban split of voters. If you dont see it you are not looking at the electoral map hard enough. Liberals need to learn how to run outside of the big 3 cities.

Outflanking the NDP on social programs isnt the way to a majority either.

DeanC said...

Re: “The West” as a voting block is dead.

Really, there were 64 more blue ridings Man-west than red. Remove that advantage from the totals and you have 79 conservative ridings to 76 Lib. Throw in Kenora and the Libs are the 2 Independents seats within a tie. Seems like Manitoba west decided the election to me.

Mark said...

Why not Belinda?

Koby said...

The Liberals are not going to win in Wild Rose or Cypress Hills-Grasslands or Selkirk-Interlake. Not now not ever. Rural populism is not part of the Liberal brand the way it is part of the Conservative and NDP brands. What the Liberals need to do is reestablish themselves in Winnipeg and Edmonton and establish themselves in Calgary. They need to win back the Lowermainland suburban seats they lost to the Conservatives (e.g., the North Shore) and make further inroads in those currently held by the Conservatives and NDP (e.g., Burnaby). They need to win back the 905 seats they lost to the Conservatives. Above all else, they need to reestablish themselves in greater Montreal (e.g., Laval). In none of those places is gun control a looser. Gun control is popular with urbanites and suburbanites and is especially popular with urban and suburban women.

As for “outflanking” the NDP on social issues, legalizing marijuana for example is not a right or left issue. The National Post supports legalization as does the Fraser Institute. The same goes for euthanasia. That is one of the advantages in tight battles with Conservatives. The Liberals want to drive a wedge between libertarian tax cutting right and social conservatives well at the same time as appealing to Red Tories who sometimes vote Conservative if social issues at not on the table. SSM issue was a god sent for the Liberals in ridings such as North Vancouver and Quadra. The old PC vote all went Liberal. Support for SSM when the undecided was factored out was near 70% in North Vancouver and higher Quadra still.

Again the research on this is pretty clear that the well off are up to 10 times more likely to caste their vote because of some social issue than the less well off and Canada’s well to do are socially liberal.

Koby said...

Vancouver and Victoria are, wait for it, west of Prince George and Regina and had been trending Liberal until Dion came along. Once Paul Martin came to power and the Alliance party and old PC party joined forces, Vancouverites, as opposed to maybe Calgarians, stop thinking of themselves as being part of “The West”.

DeanC said...

Your argument of Vancouver (& area) and Victoria is irrelevant, picking up all of those seats puts us barely over 80, plus they vote closer to Toronto and Montreal in ABC more than they are like the rest of the west. As for greater Montreal it’s the same deal, already ABC, the conservatives are 10 seats from their majority, we are not going to stop that by picking up a couple NDP and Bloc seats.

“The Liberals are not going to win in Wild Rose or Cypress Hills-Grasslands or Selkirk-Interlake. Not now not ever. Rural populism is not part of the Liberal brand the way it is part of the Conservative and NDP brands.” It may be true that certain seats are unwinnable for us but writing off all of rural Canada is the narrow mindedness that got us where we are. Such a statement in itself is totally un-liberal. I don’t know why you think that rural Canada is part of the NDP brand, the NDP dumped half of their rural ridings when they brought in Layton, those voters have without a doubt gone to the Cons because under Jack the NDP and Libs are socially the same. The NDP platform is designed to dislodge us from the big 3 cities.


You are either in one of the big 3 cities or marijuana is a pet project for you if you don’t see it as a social left/right issue. SSM is done and behind us. We need to learn something that the Cons mastered this election, stop talking about the issues that make some Canadians run away from you. The Cons did an amazing job of not mentioning any of their bible policies or privatization agenda. The pro-gun policies of the Cons don’t seem to be hurting them in the midsize cities, because they practically swept everyone of those ridings in Ont-West.

I could care less what the research suggests, real world results have shown that we are on a continual downward slide since Chretien’s last majority (where we benefited from Ontario vote splitting), what we have been doing is not working. Promoting policies that play well in the ridings that we already hold is not going to bring us back to government.

Koby said...

>>>> real world results have shown that we are on a continual downward slide since Chretien’s last majority

Gomery and Dion will do that. That said, I will agree with you and do you one better. The Liberal brand started having troubles well before then. Other than deficit reduction what exactly did the Liberals do to strengthen their brand from 1993 to 2002? They sat on their asses and let Reform in no small measure dictate the direction of the country. It was only in 2003 with his departure all but certain that Chretien started doing interesting things and Quebec for one took notice. 57% of Quebecers said the approved of the direction the country was taking on controversal measures. Not only that, Canada got great international press during this time. The New Yorker called us a “Northern Light”. The Economist called us “cool”. And on and on it went. It had enough momentum in the US to continue on into late 2004 with the moving to Canada thing following Bush’s reelection. (I can guarantee you that should the Liberals achieve power and promise to legalize marijuana that Canada would see a mountain of positive international press. The added bonus would be that the social cons in the States would loose their heads which would confirm for huge swaths of Canadian society that legalizing it was the right way to go. Legalization is the only thing the Liberals have to counter the Conservatives get tough on crime rhetoric. Saying that we too will get tough on crime, but just not as tough as the Conservatives is an idiotic political strategy. If you avoid being swept up in a wave, you dive in it before it crests. You do not attempt to swim with it.)

Martin’s idiotic decision to call Gomery well all the while refusing to build on anything other than SSM, revealed to 2003 to be a Prague spring rather than anything genuine. The Liberal party is back to again letting contentious social issues stay in the courts, maybe to be revealed one day and maybe not. Ironically SSM turned out to be the one issue that Martin was able to use against Stephen Harper to any effect. It was after the SSM debate ended in the house that many a pundit pronounced Harper unelectable.

>>>>> The NDP platform is designed to dislodge us from the big 3 cities.

Layton is delusional. The NDP vote was down in Vancouver and Toronto even though the Liberal vote was also down. What happened in Quadra by-election and the Toronto Center by-election should have told Jack something. Namely, the Green vote means that they have to again embrace the rural hinterlands if they want to grow as a party. They are not going supplant the Liberals in downtown Toronto or Vancouver. Furthermore, Layton has not really recognized that what is true of downtown Toronto is not necessarily true in much of the country. There are far more former Reform voters, for example, that make up the 20 plus percent the NDP gathers in BC each election than erstwhile Liberal supporters.

>>>>> The Cons did an amazing job of not mentioning any of their bible policies or privatization agenda.

My point. The Liberals have deluded themselves into believing over the years that if they say the Conservatives have a hidden agenda that Canadians will simply believe them. This election they did not even bother saying anything. The Liberals allowed the Conservatives to appear much more moderate than they actually are because Dion stupidly decided to run on nothing but his green shift. If you want to get the thumpers talking you have to bait them with legislation, a la what was the case with SSM.

Koby said...

>>>> Your argument of Vancouver (& area) and Victoria is irrelevant, picking up all of those seats puts us barely over 80, plus they vote closer to Toronto and Montreal in ABC more than they are like the rest of the west. As for greater Montreal it’s the same deal, already ABC, the conservatives are 10 seats from their majority, we are not going to stop that by picking up a couple NDP and Bloc seats.

The Liberals lost those seats in Toronto and suburban BC to the Cons. Take away those seat gains and the Cons are not 10 seats away from a majority they are 20 plus. As for Montreal, yes we are not talking about Conservative seats, but if the Liberals manage to move beyond the Island of Montreal into suburban Montreal, the Bloc would be in a world of hurt and so would the Conservatives.